Occupational Safety


(Ornithosis, Parrot Fever, Chlamydophila psittaci [formerly Chlamydia psittaci])

The genus Chlamydophila (PDF) contains three species, of which only Chlamydophila psittaci is widely distributed among animals and is recognized as a zoonotic pathogen. C. psittaci is distributed widely among birds and mammals worldwide and occurs naturally among many laboratory species, including birds, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, ruminants, swine, cats, ferrets and frogs.

C. psittaci produces a diverse spectrum of conditions in animals, which include conjunctivitis, pneumonitis, air sacculitis, pericarditis, hepatitis, enteritis, arthritis, meningoencephalitis, urethritis, endometritis, and abortion. Latency is a common characteristic of infections and is especially important in the epizootology of the disease in birds. The organism is spread to humans from infectious material in exudates, secretions, or desiccated fecal material via direct contact or the aerosol route.

In general, the C. psittaci strains associated with mammalian infections are less pathogenic for humans than avian strains of the organism. Human conjunctivitis has been observed in people involved in the care of cats with chlamydial conjunctivitis and pneumonitis. Human abortions resulting from infection with a C. psittaci strain that is associated with abortions in sheep also has been recorded.

The progression of disease in humans related to infection with avian strains of C. psittaci includes fever, headache, myalgia, chills and upper or lower respiratory tract disease. More serious manifestations of the disease can also occur, and relapses occur in untreated infections.

Psittacosis can be prevented by permitting birds only from a disease-free origin to be introduced into the animal facility. Wild-caught birds, or birds of unknown origin should be subjected to a round of chlortetracycline chemoprophylaxis. Cases of chlamydiosis in other animals should be treated promptly to prevent the spread of infection to personnel

Animal Biosafety Level 2 (PDF) practices, containment equipment and facilities, and respiratory protection are recommended for personnel working with naturally or experimentally infected caged birds.