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Rare but treatable parrot disease in Carroll

The Carroll County Health Department has issued a health alert for anyone who keeps tropical birds, such as parrots or cockatoos, or those who may have had recent contact with them.

Working with the Humane Society of Carroll County, the Health Department investigated a bird that had been kept at the Ruffled Feathers Parrot Rescue and Sanctuary and tested positive for avian chlamydiosis, according to a Health Department news release.

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Birds infected with this bacterial disease may appear drowsy, have trouble eating, exhibit ruffled feathers, have discharge from their eyes or noses and diarrhea. The disease most commonly affects parrots or other, similar tropical birds and can be treated with antibiotics once identified, according to Deputy Health Officer Dr. Henry Taylor.

"If people have a tropical bird that is sick, they should have a vet look at that," he said.

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Of additional concern is that avian chlamydiosis can be passed on to humans — where it is called psittacosis — through contact with sick birds, including inhaling aerosolized fluids or excrement, mouth to beak contact or handling a sick bird's feathers, according to the release.

The incubation period lasts between five to 14 days and may cause symptoms of fever, body and head aches, chills, and a dry cough in people, but is easily treated with antibiotics.

The key, Taylor said, is recognizing that psittacosis could be the issue and not some other, more common illness.

"Since it's readily treated, we wanted people to be aware if they had been to that facility or around tropical birds," he said. "It may not be something their doctors would think of unless they mention it."

Psittacosis is not highly contagious, Taylor said, but people who have been to the Ruffled Feathers Parrot Rescue and Sanctuary or been around birds with some connection to the facility should be aware that this rare bird disease could be the cause of symptoms should they develop them.

410-857-3317

twitter.com/CCt_Health

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