Psittacosis is an infectious disease usually transmitted to humans from birds in the parrot family, turkeys and pigeons.

Disease Fact Sheet

Disease Facts

Since this disease is spread by birds in the parrot family, it is occasionally found in pet store workers and people who have recently purchased an infected bird. It may also be found in farmers and slaughterhouse workers who process turkeys.

Psittacosis is usually spread by inhaling dust from dried droppings from bird cages and by handling infected birds in slaughterhouses. Human to human spread has not been reported.

The symptoms are fever, headache, chills and sometimes pneumonia.

The incubation period may range from four to 15 days but is usually 10 days.

Infection does not provide permanent immunity from the disease.

Antibiotics such as tetracycline are often prescribed.

The disease may be severe, and result in a high death rate especially in untreated older people.

If birds are kept as pets, clean the cage often so that fecal material does not accumulate, dry up and become airborne. Current laws require that members of the parrot family that are imported from foreign countries be kept in a bird quarantine station prior to sale. During the 30-day quarantine, they are given feed containing tetracycline to reduce the risk of infection. Illegally imported birds are more likely to transmit the disease.


This material is provided by the South Dakota Department of Health for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical care. We are not able to answer personal medical questions. Please see your health care provider concerning appropriate care, treatment, or other medical advice.

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