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Snohomish Health District is the local public health agency for Snohomish County in Washington state. Our news releases are a resource for current public health information for media, the public, policymakers, and other community partners.

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Possible exposure to avian chlamydiosis at Bothell bird store

Owners are encouraged to watch for pet and human symptoms

Possible exposure to avian chlamydiosis at Bothell bird store

Owners are encouraged to watch for pet and human symptoms

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – A pet bird that died has tested positive for a bacterial disease called avian chlamydiosis. Avian chlamydiosis can cause serious disease in birds and also rarely in humans. The bird had been boarded recently at the Wings of the World pet store located in Bothell, with potential exposure to other birds being boarded or available for sale since July 2. The source of the infection is unknown at this time. The Washington State Department of Health, in collaboration with the Snohomish Health District and Public Health – Seattle & King County, is in the process of contacting bird owners to share information needed for monitoring.

Sometimes referred to as “parrot fever,” avian chlamydiosis is typically found in cockatiels, parakeets, parrots and macaws. Symptoms in birds can include nasal and eye discharge, green to yellow-green droppings/diarrhea, fever, inactivity, ruffled feathers, weakness, and weight loss. Healthy looking birds can be infected and shed the bacteria when stressed, causing infection to other species of birds housed in the same environment, like finches, canaries and doves.

Avian chlamydiosis can be transmitted from birds to humans, causing a bacterial infection known as psittacosis. It mimics symptoms of the flu, including fever and chills, headache, muscle pain, and a dry cough. More severe illness can affect pregnant women and the elderly. Person-to-person transmission is possible but thought to be rare. Psittacosis is rare in Washington, with less than a dozen cases reported over the last 20 years.

RESOURCE:  About Psittacosis and Avian Chlamydiosis

Although your pet bird may never seem sick, it is important that you take a few steps to protect yourself and your bird.

  • Protect yourself. People are usually infected by breathing dust particles from dried droppings or other body fluids from infected birds. To protect yourself when handling sick birds or cleaning cages, bowls and other objects, always wear gloves and use an appropriately fitted mask. Use household bleach (1:32 dilution or 1/2 cup of bleach per gallon of water) or another registered disinfectant.
  • Protect your bird. Birds do not always become sick. It is recommended that you separate or quarantine any bird that was boarded at Wings of the World from other birds in your collection for 30 days to avoid any chance of spreading the disease. Please speak to your avian veterinarian about getting your bird tested for avian chlamydiosis. 
  • Monitor yourself and your family members for symptoms. Symptoms of psittacosis in humans include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a dry cough. More severe symptoms can occasionally occur, such as pneumonia. If you get any of these symptoms anywhere from five days to four weeks after your bird returned from Wings of the World, please consult with your health care provider.
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