What is parrot fever, a disease that has already killed five people in Europe?
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What is parrot fever, a disease that has already killed five people in Europe?

This is not avian flu, but the World Health Organization (WHO) is closely monitoring the issue. Numerous cases of psittacosis, a disease also called psittacosis or “parrot fever”, have been reported in Europe in recent months and have attracted the attention of health authorities after five people have died since November.

The number of cases has risen sharply “in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands,” Belgian daily Le Soir noted. Four people died in Denmark and one in the Netherlands.

Why is this happening?

Parrot fever is an infectious disease caused by bacteria called Chlamydia psittaciThis is stated in a document by the National Institute of Research and Security (INRS).

The bacterium has been “found in more than 460 bird species worldwide,” including parrots, parrots, and backyard birds such as ducks and even pigeons. It is most often found in bird droppings or secretions. Infected animals, which are relatively common in France, represent “the main sources of infection in humans,” INRS said.

How is it transmitted to humans?

Most human cases involve workers in the poultry sector, who have a greater propensity to come into contact with the bacteria than the rest of the population. In France, the disease is most often detected in regions with high populations of farmed birds, such as the west and southwest of the country.

Infection occurs “most often through inhalation of infectious dust contaminated with bird droppings: through contact with an infected bird, its feathers or tissues,” the INRS clarifies. However, the prospect of a human epidemic remains unlikely, since “human-to-human transmission of the virus has been observed very rarely,” the institute assures. There have also been no cases caused by consumption of animal products (meat or eggs).

What are the symptoms of the disease?

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

In about a third of cases, this may be accompanied by digestive complications with diarrhea. Cases of respiratory distress and neurological or cardiac complications have also been reported, although much less frequently. The disease can be fatal in humans if left untreated (10–20% of cases), but this percentage is less than 1% if the patient is treated.

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