Ornithosis (psittacosis): symptoms and treatment

Ornithosis (psittacosis) — a dangerous zoonotic disease, which is accompanied by a marked intoxication syndrome, the defeat of airways, in particular, the lungs. For a long time, pathology can occur with exacerbation. The disease is diagnosed in both adults and children. There are no age limits for psittacosis.


The causative agent of psittacosis is a pathogenic microorganism that belongs to chlamydia. This infectious agent is able to persist for a long time at low temperatures, and is able to live in a dried state. The virus of ornithosis first infects birds that spread it among humans. It is worth noting that they have no symptoms of infection, but can manifest themselves if the bird’s living conditions deteriorate.

The virus is transmitted from birds to humans by airborne or airborne dust. In order to get infected with ornithosis, it is enough simply to inhale the dust that was previously contaminated with feces or nasal mucus of birds. It is worth noting that it is precisely because of this that the employees of poultry farms, hunters, owners of indoor or industrial birds are more vulnerable. Patients with psittacosis are not dangerous to others, therefore it is not necessary to hospitalize them in medical institutions or to isolate them from people.

Development Mechanism

In the human body, pathogenic microorganisms penetrate the airway mucosa. Further they are introduced into bronchioles and small bronchi. Sometimes microorganisms affect the alveoli. As a result, the inflammatory process develops. Infectious agents multiply in the cells of the body.

If the treatment of ornithosis is not timely, chlamydia will enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body, affecting vital organs and systems — from the adrenal glands, to the cardiovascular system and the central nervous system. All this is accompanied by a marked intoxication syndrome.

Sometimes infection of adults and children can occur through the gastrointestinal tract, and not through airways. In this case, the progression of psittacosis occurs in the same way as described above, but without the phenomena of pneumonia. After a person has recovered from this disease, he develops immunity, but he is not persistent and short-lived.


The incubation period lasts from 5 days to one month, but most often its first symptoms appear in children and adults one week after the pathogens penetrate the mucosa. The onset of psittacosis is acute, the symptoms are pronounced clearly:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • temperature rise to high levels;
  • pain in the muscles and large joints
  • Sometimes patients notice the onset of pain in the lumbar region
  • pain and sore throat;
  • severe fatigue
  • headache and dizziness;
  • the voice becomes hoarse or rough (this symptom is especially pronounced in children)
  • redness of the conjunctiva;
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • the skin on the face can turn red;
  • a visual examination of the throat may indicate its hyperemia

Most often, psittacosis progresses in pneumonic form. In this case, a person first appears dry cough. Gradually it becomes wet and is accompanied by sputum discharge. In severe situations, sputum is given off with blood. On day 5 from the onset of progression of the pathology, the appearance of symptoms characteristic of pneumonia — shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, as well as cyanosis. If you do not start treating the disease in a timely manner in children and adults, then pleurisy development is possible.

In children, the disease proceeds in a more severe form. The body temperature rises to critical values ​​(up to 40 degrees). Fever can be either remittent or permanent. The child is restless, capricious, may be listless due to a pronounced intoxication syndrome. On the skin in children, there may be a roseous or spotted-papular rash. All other symptoms are the same as in adults.

If the treatment of ornithosis in children and adults has not been carried out, then the ailment flows into a chronic form. In this case, the patient has symptoms of bronchitis, intoxication syndrome, as well as a rise in temperature to a maximum of 38 degrees. Chronic form of ornithosis can last up to 5 years.


If treatment has not been started in a timely manner, or has not been performed in its entirety, the development of dangerous complications is possible in adults or children:

  1. hepatitis
  2. thrombophlebitis
  3. acute heart failure;
  4. myocarditis;
  5. Neuritis
  6. purulent otitis

It is especially dangerous if ornithosis begins to progress in a woman during the bearing of a child. In this case, she may have a miscarriage. It is worth noting that transplacental infection of the fetus is not fixed.


Treatment of ornithosis in humans is done with antibiotic therapy. Drugs of choice — a group of tetracyclines (doxycycline, vibramycin, tetracycline). The duration of the course of treatment is established strictly individually, taking into account the general condition of the patient, as well as the severity of the course of ornithosis. On average, from 4 to 7 days before the temperature drops to normal. After, the antibiotics give another 10 days to fix the result.

If patients have an allergy to these drugs, they are replaced with erythromycin or levomycetin. It is worth noting that the effectiveness of these drugs is somewhat lower, so recovery comes a little later.

Ornithosis treatment plan can be supplemented with such medications:

  • anti-inflammatory;
  • antiallergic;
  • Immunostimulating.


Prevention of ornithosis involves the following activities:

  1. control over the condition of poultry plants
  2. disinfection in premises where birds live for a long time
  3. diagnosis of pathology in poultry;
  4. personnel who care for birds should work in overalls and goggles

  5. In case of an outbreak of ornithosis in a certain region, residents with a preventive goal are shown to take antibiotics from the tetracycline series for 3 days.