Chlamydiosis is a disease caused by the Chlamydia psittaciC. abortus or C. felis bacteria. In animals, it is associated with respiratory or reproductive issues. In general, the chlamydia psittaci strains can survive from a few weeks to several months in the environment.

This is a zoonotic disease, which means that animals can transmit it to humans. Humans are most often infected by the C. psittaci strain, which is transmitted by a bird. This form of the disease, called psittacosis, causes respiratory symptoms.

At-risk animals

Chlamydiosis affects a large number of animal species, including cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, cats, reptiles and birds. 

Signs of the disease

In birds

The disease caused by C. psittaci especially affects pigeons and psittacidae, such as parrots and parakeets. More specifically, the bacterium is found in bird nasal secretions and droppings, as well as in dust.   

An animal can excrete the bacteria without showing any signs of the disease. Visible symptoms can include lethargy, weight and appetite loss, ruffled feathers, yellow or lime green liquid droppings, nasal discharge, difficulty breathing or an eye infection.

In ruminants

The disease caused by C. abortus can lead to abortion or death of the fetus in ewes, goats and cows.

In cats

The disease caused by C.felis causes a fever, mild rhinitis, sneezing or severe conjunctivitis.

Protection and prevention

Several measures can help prevent this disease in animals and transmission to humans.

Provide your birds with good transportation and shelter conditions. For example, ensure adequate ventilation for their hygiene. Dispose of all dirty food and clean all water and food containers every day.

Isolate all infected birds or birds with a suspected infection and have a veterinarian treat them. Reduce stress in infected birds, as stress may reduce treatment efficacy or result in signs of the disease appearing.

Do not expose treated birds to untreated birds, as they could become re-infected.

Bird environment

Hygiene measures are important to prevent the bird environment from being contaminated. Wear gloves or wash your hands frequently whenever you work with birds.

Do not dust the area with a dry cloth, a brush or a vacuum cleaner. This creates aerosols, which are microdroplets suspended in the air. Also prevent air drafts and clean all air purifiers and ventilators regularly.

Cleaning is key. Regularly use a disinfectant to clean the floor and to moisten waste for removal. Clean drapery, furniture and carpets that may have been in contact with an infected bird.

To prevent a reinfection caused by the bird’s environment, disinfect all equipment, particularly contaminated objects, such as cages, drinking troughs, feeders and perches. You can use 70% isopropyl alcohol, a ready-to-use product available in pharmacies. You can also prepare a solution with 10 millilitres of bleach diluted in 1 litre of water.

In pet stores

Preventive measures can be implemented in pet stores. First of all, isolate all new birds and avoid buying or selling birds that show signs of the disease. 

Cages should be placed in such a way as to prevent the transfer of droppings or food between cages. Do not place cages on top of each other, and clean them every day.

Protect at-risk people by wearing gloves and a surgical mask while handling contaminated birds, and while cleaning and disinfecting cages or the birds’ living area.

Keep a register of important information, such as the name of bird suppliers and buyers.

For breeders

As a preventive measure, quarantine parrots for three months and other birds for six weeks. Ensure separate ventilation for all new birds.

Talk to a veterinarian about what to test your birds for before bringing them onto your farm. 

In humans

Infected animals can transmit the disease to humans, even if they show no symptoms.

Chlamydiosis caused by C. psittaci: Someone can be infected by handling a sick bird or by touching its secretions, for example when cleaning out a cage. Inhaling feather dust or coming into contact with nasal or lachrymal secretions or with dry droppings can also result in infection. The  incubation period Read the content of the note 1 is 5 to 14 days and sometimes longer.

Psittacosis can go unnoticed. When symptoms appear in humans, they can include a fever, headaches, chills, muscular pain, loss of appetite, coughing, a runny nose or pneumonia. 

A sick person generally recovers in seven to ten days.

Chlamydiosis caused by C. abortus: In rare cases, a person can be contaminated if they were in direct contact with small ruminants, like ewes and goats.

Pregnant women should avoid all contact with ewes while the flock is infected with C. abortus, especially during animals’ birthing period.

Symptoms include fever, headaches and nausea. The disease can lead to abortion, stillbirth or premature birth.

Chlamydiosis caused by C. felis: In rare cases, a person can contract the disease following direct contact with a cat infected with C. felis. This bacterium causes conjunctivitis in humans.

Last update: January 8, 2024


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