Diseases From Pets-Parrots
( Originally Published 1936 )
We are frequently reminded, by despatches in the newspapers, that it is possible to catch a disease from the pet parrot.
Parrot fever is a disease much like influenza, is due to a germ, and is caught from sick parrots or parrakeets.
The disease has been known to medical science since 1879. The first epidemic described was in Switzerland. Three weeks after the arrival of a shipment of parrots into the little town of Uster, Switzer-land, the disease broke out. Seven people were afflicted and three died.
Not much was heard of the disease in the United States until 1928. In this year an epidemic was described in Philadelphia. The first patient received an African parrot in July, 1928. The bird appeared to have a cold. The owner nursed it, allowed it to take food from her mouth, fondled it and kissed it. This is the usual way in which the disease is transmitted. In August, the patient was taken sick with a severe headache and fever. Symptoms of pneumonia developed, with abdominal distention—the typical picture of the disease.
Psittacosis, or parrot fever, is caused by the bacillus psittacosis, first described in 1893. The symptoms in infected birds are discharge from the nose and general droopiness. During recent epidemics most of the birds have come from South America. In Cordoba, Argentina, which is the center for the parrot and parrakeet trade, a great many cases were seen in July, 1929.
In human beings the disease usually appears in about eight or ten days after exposure. It may start with a chill and an achy feeling, followed by definite signs of pneumonia and intestinal disturbance.
The disease lasts about a month or six weeks. Relapses occur. Curiously enough, it does not seem to be contagious from man to man.
The lesson involved is very obvious. It is, of course, natural for an owner to want to comfort and fondle a sick pet, but with parrots and parrakeets this is absolutely dangerous. Few cases occur simply from having the birds in the house but, of course, in case they become sick with the symptoms mentioned above, it is much safer to remove them.