Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip - Will Rogers
image by: Crystal Gail Rabac
If you're feeling poorly, borrow a page from the avian kingdom and say you're "sick as a parrot."
Why a parrot? Remarkably, this curious comparison predates the Monty Python "dead parrot" sketch. Several lively theories, none of them provable, explain its origin: One is that parrot smugglers from South America used to sedate birds to sneak them quietly across the border to U.S. buyers. When the birds awoke from their drugged sleep, groggy and stumbling, their new owners thought they looked hungover and coined the whimsical comparison.
Another theory suggests that "parrot" is a corruption of the French word "Pierrot" (i.e., a pasty-faced clown). Still others point to psittacosis…
f you’re feeling poorly, borrow a page from the avian kingdom and say you’re “sick as a parrot.” . Another theory suggests that “parrot” is a corruption of the French word “Pierrot” (i.e., a pasty-faced clown). Still others point to psittacosis (a contagious bird flu), or credit a mention in a 17th-century play by Aphra Behn. In any case, if you are unsteady on your pins, have a flutter with this metaphor — and take two aspirin.
The word psittacosis is derived from the Greek work Psittakos, which means parrot. It is a label for a disease in birds that has been recognized for the last century. Called psittacosis if it infects psittacines (parrots, parakeets, cockatoos, etc.), the same malady is termed ornithosis if it infects other types of birds. Other names include parrot fever and chlamydiosis. The causative agent is Chlamydia psittaci. This "microvarmit" is like a bacteria (in that it responds to antibiotics) as well as like a virus (in that it will grow only on a tissue culture, not on bacterial media).
We are not vets or physicians, but we can tell you what we know about psittacosis from our vet and physician. It is an infection birds can get and transmit to humans. It is not common for humans to get it. People with immune suppressions like Lupus or HIV, the very elderly and people with infants need to be more careful (as with any infection).
Do you love your bird? That's good but you shouldn't get carried away with your affection. For instance, kissing your bird is not healthy and one reason for this is the disease Psittacosis. Psittacosis is a zoonosis, a disease which can be spread from animals (birds in this case) to humans.
People get the disease by breathing the dust from dried bird droppings, or by handling infected birds. The symptoms in humans are fever, headache, chills, cough, and sometimes pneumonia. Psittacosis is not spread person to person.
Chlamydia psittaci is a type of bacteria that often infects birds. Less commonly, these bacteria can infect people and cause a disease called psittacosis. Psittacosis causes a wide range of symptoms, including fever, headache, and a dry cough. This illness can also cause pneumonia (a lung infection) that may require treatment or care in a hospital. Rarely, psittacosis can be deadly.
It was a classic medical scare story: Parrots died. A few people got sick. Newspapers went wild. Then, well after the outbreak of "parrot fever" was declared dormant, researchers who dealt with the birds began to mysteriously die themselves. Historian Jill Lepore talks to host Jacki Lyden about the great parrot fever outbreak of 1929.
Psittacosis is a rare disease... Bird owners, pet shop employees, persons who work in poultry processing plants, and veterinarians are at increased risk for this infection. Typical birds involved are parrots, parakeets, and budgerigars, although other birds have also caused the disease.
Tetracycline or doxycycline are the usual first-line antibiotics of choice. Treatment is normally given for 2-3 weeks to lower the risk of relapse. Patients normally show a response within 24-72 hours.
Psittacosis is a systemic disease that can cause an atypical pneumonia when it infects the lungs. Psittacosis is also known as avian chlamydiosis, ornithosis, and parrot fever. This disease is caused by the zoonotic bacterium Chlamydia psittaci, which is transmitted to humans primarily from birds.
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