We are not vets or physicians, but we can tell you what we know about psittacosis from our vet and physician. It is an infection birds can get and transmit to humans. It is not common for humans to get it. People with immune suppressions like Lupus or HIV, the very elderly and people with infants need to be more careful (as with any infection).
Symptoms can range from upper respiratory (nasal discharge, sneezing, "tailbobbing," wheezing) to GI track symptoms (diarrhea, poor appetite, unusually colored (green droppings). Birds with psittacosis may also seem depressed and sleepy. Please keep in mind that all of the above symptoms can also be present with other health problems in pet birds and that merely because your bird may be experiencing one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean he/she has psittacosis. If your bird has any of the above symptoms I would take him/her to an experienced avian vet ASAP for proper diagnosis and treatment. There are tests available to check birds for psittacosis. They are far from being perfect, but are a valuable diagnostic tool to a good avian vet. Psittacosis is common in Cockatiels, Lovebirds and Budgies and is an "airborne" disease. This is why it is so important to practice quarantine with any new birds in a household and to never bring your birds to pet stores or bird shows where there are going to be a lot of other birds of unknown health status. It is just not worth the risk.
There are good tests for people to diagnose and treat psittacosis. We believe the symptoms in humans can include a severe cough, fever, weakness. It can be similar to flu symptoms but more severe.
How the Disease is Spread
The disease can be shed from the feces of an infected bird and if there is another bird in the same room the dust from the feces can become airborne (when the bird flaps his wings, for instance) and then the uninfected bird breathes in the aerosolized feces and becomes infected. People catch psittacosis the same way. However, it is much more common for birds to catch it than people. We have worked around sick birds for years and have never had psittacosis. We know of very few people who have ever gotten it, and those people were successfully treated. However, it is a good thing to tell your physician that you have birds so that you can be tested for it if you ever become ill.
If you are concerned about yourself, please discuss it with your physician. If you are concerned about your bird(s) please take them into an experienced avian veterinarian for a thorough exam. We usually tell people to try not to get too caught up in worry about psittacosis. Since there is treatment available, why not find out if it is an issue in your bird, and treat if necessary? There are a lot of diseases out there that are at this time untreatable and much scarier to have to deal with. One of my birds was ill recently and I was wishing it was psittacosis. The other possibilities were much worse. We hope we have been able to clarify some things about Psittacosis. Basically, if you get your birds regular health exams, keep them away from birds of unknown health status, keep them on a good healthy diet and clean surroundings you are doing everything in your power to keep them healthy, happy and disease free.
Tips for Avoiding Psittacosis
Tips for immunocompromised bird owners:
• Have your vet test your bird for Chlamydiosis.
• Keep cages clean.
• Wash your hands after handling a bird or coming into contact with dander, feathers, droppings or equipment.
• Avoid inhaling dust when cleaning cages.
• Run a quality air filter in the room where the birds are kept.