The Ornithosis is one of the so-called zoonoses - disease transmission between animals and humans is possible. However, people get sick comparatively rarely.
With the so-called parrot disease, the course of the underlying disease is already very stressful for those affected and is regularly associated with severe flu-like symptoms. Sometimes there are also disturbances of consciousness and severe gastrointestinal problems.
The Ornithosis is an infectious disease that occurs very rarely in humans. In many cases ornithosis is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci.
The disease owes its alternative name to this type of bacteria Psittacosis'. In addition, the ornithosis is sometimes also called aviculturist or Parrot disease titled. As an animal disease, ornithosis is subject to notification within Germany.
The pathogens responsible for the disease initially settle in organs such as the spleen and liver. Occasionally, as a result of this fact, mild symptoms of jaundice may occur, but these usually go unnoticed by the patient.
The first noticeable symptoms of ornithosis are usually similar to the symptoms caused by the flu; these include, for example, headache and sore throat, runny nose and / or fever. In addition, ornithosis often leads to symptoms that typically occur with pneumonia; as well as, above all, a dry cough.
Mostly birds are responsible for the transmission of the pathogen that leads to Ornithosis leads. Therefore, people who are in frequent contact with birds (such as animal keepers or employees in the pet shop) are particularly at risk.
Infection with germs responsible for ornithosis is possible both via direct contact and via droplet transmission (such as during the mucking out of bird cages). Infectious germs enter the body of an affected person via the respiratory tract. Once the germs have penetrated the patient's organism, they multiply in the patient's cells.
The incubation period (the period between infection with germs and the outbreak of disease) of the ornithosis is approx. 10 - 20 days.
The ornithosis caused by the pathogen Chlamydia psitacci usually shows a sudden onset with a high fever, headache and body aches as well as chills. Muscle pain is also part of the flu-like symptom complex. In the majority of those infected, an uncharacteristic rash develops on the body in the first few days of the illness. Some of the patients recover from this flu-like episode of illness.
If this is not the case, interstitial pneumonia forms. It is not the functional tissue of the lungs but the tissue between the alveoli that is affected by the inflammation. This is also referred to as atypical pneumonia. Those affected suffer from a dry and persistent irritable cough, which is occasionally accompanied by chest pain. In the further course, the pneumonia can lead to hemoptysis, in which the patient coughs up blood-containing secretions.
Many patients also complain of severe headaches as an accompanying symptom. In more than half of all patients with ornithosis, the spleen is swollen (splenomegaly), but liver swelling only occurs in exceptional cases. Another symptom that suggests ornithosis is MALT lymphoma in the area of the tear ducts. It is a malignant disease of the lymphatic system.
If the symptoms are appropriate, the fact that an affected person has frequent contact with birds can be the first indication of the presence of a Ornithosis give. However, the disease can also occur in people for whom an appropriate connection cannot be made immediately.
Further diagnostics if ornithosis are suspected, for example, are x-rays of the patient's chest; if an ornithosis is present, this can be recognized from the structures of the lungs. Laboratory values that indicate ornithosis include, for example, a slight increase in white blood cells.
The course of the disease of ornithosis varies depending on the patient and depends, for example, on the age and the integrity of the immune system of the person affected. On average, the fever gradually subsides around the fourth week of illness. The period until final recovery is influenced, among other things, by the severity of the symptoms and the start of treatment. If left untreated, severe forms of ornithosis in particular can lead to death.
With the so-called parrot disease, the course of the underlying disease is already very stressful for those affected and is regularly associated with severe flu-like symptoms. Sometimes there are also disturbances of consciousness and severe gastrointestinal problems. It is not uncommon for patients to develop pneumonia.
Beyond that, however, there are only further complications in particularly severe cases. In these cases, the pathogens spread throughout the body and also affect other organs. Then there is a risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and, in particularly severe cases, if the pericardium is also inflamed, perimyocarditis.
With these diseases, the patient suffers from shortness of breath, pain and feelings of pressure in the chest, especially behind the breastbone, as well as palpitations and cardiac arrhythmias. Due to the lack of oxygen, the lips, sometimes the entire skin of the face, turn bluish. It can also enlarge the liver and spleen.
Another rare complication is endocarditis. In this disease, the lining of the heart becomes inflamed, usually together with the heart valves. People develop a high fever, chills, and joint pain. The doctor can also often determine changes in the murmur of the heart. In addition, there is often a disorder of kidney function.
Occasionally the pathogens of ornithosis also affect the central nervous system and cause meningitis (meningitis). Such severe complications are usually only to be expected if the ornithosis is not treated in time or the patient suffers from a severely weakened immune system.
If symptoms such as aching limbs, greenish diarrhea, and fever occur, ornithosis may be the cause. A doctor should be consulted if the symptoms persist for a long period of time, get worse quickly, or significantly affect the patient's well-being.
If there is already a specific suspicion, for example if the complaints arise after contact with a possibly infected animal, it is best to see a general practitioner immediately. The symptoms may be based on an animal disease which, if left untreated, can be fatal. Therefore, a doctor must diagnose ornithosis and, if necessary, refer the patient to a specialist.
They will prescribe antibiotics for the patient, which should resolve symptoms within two to three weeks. If the medication does not work, it is advisable to visit your doctor again. In-depth clarification is necessary, especially if there are signs of hepatitis or cardiac rhythm disorders. These symptoms indicate a severe course, which under certain circumstances can lead to cardiac arrest and thereby death. Early treatment by your family doctor or a specialist in infectious diseases prevents a serious course. With children, the pediatrician should be consulted first.
The therapeutic treatment of a Ornithosis usually includes antibiotics as early as possible (antibiotics are used to specifically combat bacteria). The type of antibiotic a treating doctor prescribes for an ornithosis in each individual case depends, among other things, on factors such as the patient's constitution.
In the case of ornithosis, which is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci, doctors often advise taking antibiotics in the form of so-called macrolides or tetracyclines. These types of antibiotics are usually particularly effective in combating the ornithosis-causing bacterium, which is characterized by the fact that it grows and lives within a patient's cells.
Macrolides and tetracyclines disrupt the protein balance of the Chlamydia psittaci bacterium, which subsequently cannot grow any further and dies. Depending on the symptoms, the administration of antibiotics can be supplemented in individual cases, for example, with measures to alleviate acute symptoms (such as severe headaches).
With timely and adapted therapy with the use of antibiotics, the prognosis of ornithosis is very good. Prior to the use of antibiotic drugs for this condition, the mortality rate was 15 to 20 percent. Since then this has decreased and is now less than one percent. Mild infections are often asymptomatic and heal well, but due to the persistence of pathogens in certain places of retreat, the duration of the illness can vary.
Serious infections, which also make hospitalization necessary, are usually fatal.In the case of ornithosis, it is important and necessary to carry out the treatment with antibiotics to the end. Stopping therapy prematurely, which many patients tend to do as symptoms improve, can encourage relapse. Treatment can only lead to a successful prognosis if it is carried out consistently. Usually the medication intake is planned for a period of two to three weeks.
The possible symptoms associated with the disease such as gastrointestinal complaints with abdominal cramps as well as diarrhea and vomiting or atypical pneumonia occur depending on the immune status and age of the patient and can also be managed well with appropriate medication. Here, too, the timely start of therapy is decisive for the prognosis.
Especially people who are frequently confronted with birds and / or bird droppings in their leisure time or at work, doctors recommend wearing respiratory protection in the case of known infected animals Ornithosis to prevent. Despite breathing protection, avoiding direct contact with the faeces of infected birds can also help prevent ornithosis.
The aftercare aims, among other things, at everyday support and permanent treatment of the complaints. However, both aspects are irrelevant after a treated ornithosis. Affected are completely healed. You return to your everyday life. Statistically speaking, less than one percent of sufferers die from ornithosis in a short time.
Optionally, doctors can offer palliative aftercare near the end of life. Within this, those affected receive painkillers that allow a symptom-free time. Elementary questions of life can be discussed with a pastor or psychotherapist.
In addition, the follow-up to avoid recurrence plays an important role. This is known from tumor diseases, for example. Patients present themselves in a certain rhythm, with which doctors look for new cancer cases. They expect the best possible courses of action from an early diagnosis. Such a form of medical aftercare does not play a role in ornithosis either.
Rather, those affected can avoid re-infection themselves. The doctor provides information on suitable preventive measures that the patient is responsible for implementing. So direct contact with bird faeces should be avoided. Careful personal hygiene is generally recommended when dealing with birds.
The antibiotic treatment necessary for ornithosis can be supported by various measures, but cannot be replaced by them. The antibiotic should therefore be taken according to instructions for a successful treatment and also not dosed or discontinued independently.
The symptoms of the resulting respiratory disease can be counteracted with simple means, as with a cold or flu. This includes, above all, the regular moisturizing of the mucous membranes through inhalations with salt water, warm foot baths to stimulate the own immune system and cold calf compresses or compresses when a high fever occurs. It is also necessary to drink enough and to make the diet particularly rich in vitamins and low in calories and fat, especially in the severe phase of the disease. For example, hot ginger tea with honey, small fruit snacks and hot vegetable soups are ideal. The often recommended chicken soup is also useful, but there is still no reliable proof of its immune-boosting effect.
The immune defense can also be supported by sleep or rest. Persistent movements and physical and psychological stress should be avoided. Short walks in the fresh air, however, are beneficial without a fever. In the sickroom, too, should be ventilated regularly and, if necessary, the humidity should be increased with humidifiers or water bowls.