What Is Parrot Fever, The Disease That Has Killed Five People In Europe?

Human infections of the respiratory disease are occurring through exposure to infected birds.

Β© by GrrlScientist for Forbes | LinkTr.ee

For those Americans who are paying attention, there is a disease outbreak in Europe that has killed five people β€” so far. This disease is known as β€œParrot Fever”, or psittacosis, and it is caused by a potentially lethal bacterial infection, Chlamydia psittaci. Despite its similar name, this bacterium is different from that which causes sexually transmitted chlamydia infections.

Psittacosis can be transmitted from animals to humans, but rarely causes severe pneumonia in people. In just a few months, it has already infected at least 120 people in five countries β€” Austria, Denmark (4 deaths), Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands β€” starting in late 2023 and continuing into 2024. According to a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) alert (more here), the overall health risk to humans posed by this disease is low β€” but not zero.

Despite its incriminating name, it’s interesting to note that, of those cases that reported exposure information, 80% had contact with wild birds (primarily via bird feeders), whereas four cases reported no direct bird contact at all.

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𝐆𝐫𝐫π₯π’πœπ’πžπ§π­π’π¬π­, scientist & journalist
Gardening, Birding, and Outdoor Adventure

PhD evolutionary ecology/ornithology. Psittacophile. SciComm senior contributor at Forbes, former SciComm at Guardian. Also on Substack at 'Words About Birds'.