Psittacosis Outbreak Sweeps Europe: Unraveling the Parrot Fever Epidemic


A wave of concern has swept across Europe as a deadly outbreak of psittacosis, colloquially known as parrot fever, has claimed the lives of five individuals. The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued alerts regarding this bacterial infection caused by Chlamydia psittacosis, emphasizing the need for heightened awareness and preventive measures.

The outbreak, initially identified in 2023, has persisted into the current year, marking a significant health challenge. Psittacosis is primarily associated with birds, both wild and domesticated, and its transmission to humans has raised alarms in several European countries.

Psittacosis Overview

Psittacosis, caused by Chlamydophila psittaci, is a respiratory infection prevalent in birds, particularly in species like parrots, pigeons, and finches. Human infections are usually linked to individuals who work closely with birds, including pet owners, veterinarians, and poultry workers. The bacteria responsible for psittacosis is transmitted through inhalation of airborne particles from respiratory secretions, dried feces, or feather dust of infected birds.

Affected Countries and Cases

Several European nations, including Austria, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and The Netherlands, have reported a surge in psittacosis cases. Austria, which typically records two cases annually, reported 14 confirmed cases in 2023 and an additional four in 2024 as of March 4. Denmark, with an average of 15 to 30 cases yearly, witnessed 23 confirmed cases and raised concerns about potential underreporting.

Germany reported 14 cases in 2023 and an additional five in 2024, with a majority of individuals developing pneumonia. Sweden noted an unusual spike in cases since 2017, and The Netherlands reported twice the usual number of cases in late 2023 and early 2024.

Symptoms, Treatment, and Human Transmission

Typically, psittacosis presents as a mild illness with symptoms like fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a dry cough. Prompt antibiotic treatment is effective, and complications such as pneumonia can be avoided.

Human-to-human transmission of psittacosis is rare, with most cases linked to exposure to infected birds. The WHO stresses that correctly diagnosed cases are treatable with antibiotics, and there is a low likelihood of further transmission among humans.

Preventive Measures and WHO’s Response

As part of its response, WHO recommends increased awareness among clinicians for testing suspected cases using RT-PCR. Owners of caged or domestic birds, particularly psittacines, are urged to be vigilant as the bacteria can be carried asymptomatically.

Preventive measures include quarantining newly acquired birds, conducting surveillance of C. psittaci in wild birds, and promoting good hygiene practices among pet bird owners. The WHO underscores the importance of clean cages, proper positioning to prevent droplet spread, and avoiding overcrowded conditions.


As Europe grapples with the psittacosis outbreak, timely awareness, preventive measures, and collaborative efforts are crucial to curbing its spread. The affected countries are implementing epidemiological investigations, and the WHO continues to monitor the situation closely.

In conclusion, understanding the dynamics of psittacosis, recognizing symptoms, and adopting preventive measures are vital components in addressing this avian-borne health crisis. As the affected nations work to contain the outbreak, a collective commitment to public health practices remains paramount.

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