Posted: December 6, 2012, 11:15 a.m. PST
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio
Psittacosis was once known as parrot fever.
A necropsy of a budgerigar/parakeet that lived at Zoo Atlanta’s Boundless Budgies Parakeet Aviary found the presence of psittacosis. Zoo Atlanta closed down the exhibit as a precautionary measure for at least 60 days while the aviary’s 250 budgie residents are treated with antibiotics. Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus), commonly referred to as budgies, are a small Australian parrot commonly kept as a pet or aviary bird all over the world.
Psittacosis (Chlamydophila psittici) is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be passed from birds to people. Symptoms of psittacosis in people include a fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, sweats, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a dry cough. Symptoms are usually mild in a person unless the person has a compromised immune system. Psittacosis often is misdiagnosed in people because the doctor is unaware the person has been exposed to birds.
Some birds can be asymptomatic carriers of the disease, which means they look healthy but could shed the organism to other birds and people. In those that do show symptoms, they appear similar to the human ones: breathing difficulty, lack of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, shivering, lethargy and nasal discharge.
Birds and people are treated the same way with antibiotics. Zoo Atlanta’s veterinary team will be treating, observing and testing the flock, plus decontaminating the aviary before re-opening the Boundless Budgies Parakeet Aviary.
According to Zoo Atlanta’s website, the zoo routinely conducts necropsies (equivalent to the human autopsy) on deceased animals as a proactive measure in detecting any presence of disease in its animals. This is the first time psittacosis has been found in the budgies.
Screening for psittacosis is recommended for most pet birds, especially the smaller ones such as cockatiels, lovebirds and budgies. For more information on other medical tests your pet bird should have, check out 5 Medical Tests For Your Pet Bird.
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