Diagnosis, Treatment, and Complications

Diagnosis

Symptoms of psittacosis are similar to many other respiratory illnesses. In addition, tests to detect the bacteria directly may not be readily available. For these reasons, clinicians may not suspect it, making psittacosis difficult to diagnose. CDC rarely receives reports of psittacosis. Tell your clinician if you get sick after buying or handling a pet bird or poultry.

Clinicians can use a number of tests to determine if someone has psittacosis. These tests include collecting sputum (phlegm), blood or swabs from the nose and/or throat to detect the bacteria.

Treatment

People diagnosed with psittacosis usually take antibiotics to treat the infection. Most people improve quickly if they start antibiotics soon after they first get sick.

Complications

Most people treated properly for psittacosis make a full recovery. However, some people have serious complications and need care in a hospital. Complications include:

  • Serious pneumonia (lung infection)
  • Endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves)
  • Hepatitis (inflammation of the liver)
  • Inflammation of the nerves or the brain, leading to neurologic problems

With appropriate antibiotic treatment, psittacosis rarely (less than 1 in 100 cases) results in death.

Page last reviewed: August 22, 2019