The Washington Department of Health (DOH) recently was notified that a Florida-based pet bird vendor has supplied 45 states including Washington State with birds potentially infected with Chlamydophila psittaci (C. psittaci).
Most suspect birds were shipped to PetSmart stores during the last several months.
According to PetSmart Corporate records received by the DOH, approximately 20 PetSmart stores in Washington State have received a shipment or shipments of birds from this vendor.
The cities in Washington State with PetSmart stores that were recipients of pet birds from the Florida Vendor are Bellingham, Burlington, Everett, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kennewick, Lacey, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Puyallup, Seattle, Silverdale, Spokane, Tacoma, Tukwila, Union Gap, Vancouver, and Woodinville.
Although it is possible that other independent stores selling pet birds in Washington may have received birds from the Florida vendor, there has been no verification of this.
Psittacosis is a zoonotic disease caused by the bacterium Chlamydophila psittaci (formerly Chlamydia psittaci). Birds of the parrot family (parakeets, parrots, love birds, cockatiels) commonly carry the bacterium. The birds may be asymptomatic, or they may appear droopy and have diarrhea and a nasal discharge.
In humans, psittacosis is typically acquired by inhaling dried discharges and excreta from infected birds. The incubation period is 5 to 19 days.
Signs and symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, chest tightness and a dry cough. Pneumonia is often evident on chest x-ray. Although uncommon, severe illness can occur. Psittacosis can be treated with antibiotics in both humans and birds.
To date, two possible human cases have been reported among employees from a Minnesota pet retailer not associated with PetSmart, according to a PetSmart announcement.
As of December 26, 2007, DOH had not received any reports of human illness associated with pet stores selling birds.
A statement released by PetSmart Corporation indicates that PetSmart is taking steps to address the situation through suspension of bird sales and protection of PetSmart workers.
The statement further indicates that PetSmart's veterinarians are in communication with the appropriate federal, state, and local health officials and with veterinarians that have expertise in C. psittaci infections in birds, termed avian chlamydiosis.
For additional information on this disease, please refer to the Compendium of Measure to Control Chlamydohila psittaci Infection Among Humans (Psittacosis) and Pet Birds (Avian Chlamydosis), 2006 at http://www.nasphv.org/Documents/Psittacosis.pdf.
For additional information on this issue in Washington, please contact Dr. Ron Worhle (360-236-3369) or Dorothy Tibbetts (360-236-3361) at the DOH Zoonotic Disease Program.