A 49-year-old mother almost died after caring for a sick parrot. How is this “parrot fever” conveyed? And how to avoid it? Answers.
Come close to death because of a bird? This is what happened to Shaharazaad Gafoor, a mother who contracted “psittacosis” after being in contact with an infected cockatoo.
A bacterial zoonosis that affects the lungs
Shaharazaad Gafoor had no idea that her nephew’s parrot could make her sick. And yet: while taking care of the animal – an eight-year-old cockatoo – the mother noticed that it was starting to lose feathers and show signs of lethargy.
Soon, she herself begins to feel bad. She then went to the hospital, where the doctors diagnosed her with “psittacose”also known as “parrot fever”.
An infectious disease, which is characterized by fever, headache, muscle pain, chills and, sometimes, as here, severe pneumonia.
In Shaharazaad Gafoor’s case, the infection quickly worsened.
“I wasn’t sure I would survive (…), I felt like I was dead. This whole ordeal has turned my life upside down. I constantly felt like I was overheating and couldn’t get rid of the excruciating muscle pain.”, she recalled. “I couldn’t believe that the animal I had loved so much had almost ended my life.”
The young woman, seriously ill, will have to stay nearly 9 days in hospital for treatment. She will eventually return home, but not without after-effects.
“My lungs are damaged for life and I live every day in fear that the bacteria will reappear“, she confides.
The 49-year-old mother, scarred by the infection, now wants to warn others not to get too close to the birds.
“The appeal of a cute, cuddly companion should not overshadow the possible risks.”she recalls, hoping that her testimony will serve as a “wake-up call” to all people in contact with these animals.
Psittacosis: what is the right attitude to adopt to avoid it?
As a reminder, psittacosis – an acute respiratory disease transmitted mainly by parrots, parakeets, canaries, pigeons – is caused by the bacteria Chlamydophila Psittaci (present in large quantities in the secretions of infected birds); transmitted by direct or indirect contact.
Infected birds may be in good health or present various suspicious signs (lethargic state, diarrhea, etc.). Dead birds can also carry the bacteria.
In fact, Shaharazaad Gafoor reminds us never to “kiss or hug birds“but also of”wash your hands constantly” after handling them.
People most at risk (pet store workers, poultry farmers, and veterinarians) should avoid contact with birds and their droppings as much as possible.