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Pigeons can carrie Chlamydia psittaci which infects wild and domestic birds and poultry. Birds which contract the infection include parrots, canaries, pigeons, chickens, ducks, and turkeys. Sick birds show signs of:
Human can become infected with Chlamydia psittaci by breathing in the organism when the urine, respiratory secretion, or dried feces of infected birds is aerosolized dispersed in the air as very fine droplets or dust particles. Other sources of exposure include mouth-to-beak contact, a bite from an infected bird, and handling the plumage and tissues of infected birds. When a person breathes in Chlamydia psittaci bacteria, the lungs' defense mechanisms attempt to neutralize them. The bacteria that avoid this defense start an infection that varies in severity from a mild flu-like illness to severe pneumonia. Generally, the signs and symptoms appear within four to 15 days after exposure. These include:
weakness or fatigue,
muscle and chest pain,
loss of appetite,
abnormal intolerance to light.
Psittacosis is primarily a lung disease but it can involve several organs. Some reports show that inflammation of the liver, lining of the heart cavity, the heart muscle, and the brain can occur.
The course of the disease is variable and it can result in death. However, fatal cases are rare. In mild cases, fever may continue for three weeks or more.
For accurate diagnosis of psittacosis, a doctor must know that the person has been exposed to birds and that the suspected birds are infected with Chlamydia psittaci. Laboratory examinations can identify the organism and detect the signs of infection. Patients who develop psittacosis require treatment with specific drugs. The disease is very responsive to tetracycline but is resistant to penicillin.