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Biogenics Research Institute
Other Respiratory Tract Disorders
Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis
Idiopathic Intersitial Lung Disease

Environmental Antigens - Birds

Q: What health risks are associated with pet caged birds?


A: The health risks associated with pet caged birds are related to the allergic response, infection from Chlamydia psittaci (psittacosis), and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.


1. Individuals who are allergic to the proteins in birds droppings can respond to pet birds with the usual allergic symptoms that can be any of the following: watery, itchy, red, swollen eyes; runny, congested, itchy, sneezing nose with sinus aches; cough, throat clearing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and other asthma symptoms.


2. Chlamydia psittaci is an organism an individual may be exposed to from the feathers or feces of infected birds. The bird can be either symptomatic or asymptomatic. The organism typically enters the human by inhalation. The infection varies from mild flu-like symptoms to pneumonia. Most people have headache and a dry cough. Myalgia and arthralgia are common. Rarely does the illness progress to serious toxic states involving other organ systems (27).


3. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is one of the interstitial lung diseases characterized by recurrent pneumonias leading to fibrosis of the lungs. The common symptoms are cough, fatigue and shortness of breath. Illness occurs from respiratory exposure to the proteins in the feces. It becomes airborne as an organic dust, then is inhaled causing hypersensitivity pneumonitis in susceptible individuals(28).