What is “parrot fever”, a disease which has already killed five humans in Europe?

What is “parrot fever”, a disease which has already killed five humans in Europe?

This is not a Avian Flu, but the World Health Organization (WHO) is closely monitoring the matter. Numerous cases of ornithosis, a disease also called psittacosis or “parrot fever”, have been recorded in Europe in recent months and alerted the health authoritiesafter five people have died since November.

The number of cases has increased sharply “in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands”, notes the Belgian daily The evening. Four people died in Denmark and one in the Netherlands.

What is it due to?

“Parrot fever” is a infectious disease caused by a bacteria called Chlamydia psittaciaccording to the sheet established by the National Institute for Research and Safety (INRS).

The bacteria has been “detected in more than 460 species of birds around the world”, including parakeets, parrots, but also backyard birds like ducks, or even in pigeons. It is most often found in bird droppings or secretions. Affected animals, relatively common in France, constitute the “main sources of human contamination”, specifies the INRS.

How is it transmitted to humans?

The majority of cases of transmission to humans concerns professionals of the poultry sector, who have a greater tendency to be in contact with the bacteria than the rest of the population. In France, the disease is most often identified in regions where there is a high population of farmed birds, such as in the west and southwest of the country.

Infection occurs “most often by inhalation of infectious dust contaminated by bird droppings: when handling an infected bird or its feathers or tissues,” details the INRS. However, the prospect of a human epidemic remains unlikely, because “human-to-human transmission has very rarely been demonstrated,” reassures the institute. No cases generated by the consumption of animal products (meat or eggs) have also been recorded.

What are the symptoms of the illness ?

When transmitted to humans, ornithosis has an incubation period of 5 to 19 days. Most often, the disease manifests itself in the form of “atypical pneumonia revealed by a flu-like syndrome most often with fever,” insists the INRS. This can cause headaches, chills, muscle pain, or even coughing in almost all cases.

In about a third of cases, this can be accompanied by digestive complications with diarrhea. Cases of respiratory distress, neurological or cardiac complications have also been recorded, although much less frequently. The disease can be fatal in humans in the absence of treatment (10 to 20% of cases), but this percentage is less than 1% if the patient is taken care of.

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