Clinical Features and Complications

Clinical features

Clinical presentations of psittacosis can vary widely from no evidence of infection to severe systemic disease accompanied by pneumonia. The predominant presentation is upper respiratory tract infection with constitutional symptoms. Symptomatic infections typically present as:

  • Abrupt onset of fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Myalgia
  • Nonproductive cough

For patients with pneumonia, it is often evident on chest x-ray. Radiographic findings may include lobar or interstitial infiltrates.

Patients may present with pulse-temperature dissociation (fever without increased pulse rate), splenomegaly, and rash, though less frequently.

The incubation period is typically 5 to 14 days. Less commonly, symptoms may begin more than 14 days after exposure.

Clinical complications

Severe complications can result in hospitalization. Reported complications include:

  • Severe pneumonia requiring intensive-care support
  • Respiratory failure
  • Endocarditis
  • Myocarditis
  • Hepatitis
  • Arthritis
  • Encephalitis
  • Sepsis

Death occurs in less than 1% of properly treated patients.

Severe clinical outcomes have been reported in people who become infected with C. psittaci during pregnancy.