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Managing a cluster outbreak of psittacosis in Belgium linked to a pet shop visit in The Netherlands

Boeck, C. De; DeHollogne, C.; Dumont, A.; Spierenburg, M.; Heijne, M.; Gyssens, I.; Hilst, J. Van der; Vanrompay, D.

Abstract

In July 2013, a Belgian couple were admitted to hospital because of pneumonia. Medical history revealed contact with birds. Eleven days earlier, they had purchased a lovebird in a pet shop in The Netherlands. The bird became ill, with respiratory symptoms. The couple's daughter who accompanied them to the pet shop, reported similar symptoms, but was travelling abroad. On the suspicion of psittacosis, pharyngeal swabs from the couple were taken and sent to the Belgian reference laboratory for psittacosis. Culture and nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were positive for the presence of Chlamydia psittaci, and ompA genotyping indicated genotype A in both patients. The patients were treated with doxycycline and the daughter started quinolone therapy; all three recovered promptly. Psittacosis is a notifiable disease in Belgium and therefore local healthcare authorities were informed. They contacted their Dutch colleagues, who visited the pet shop. Seven pooled faecal samples were taken and analysed using PCR by the Dutch national reference laboratory for notifiable animal diseases for the presence of Chlamydia psittaci. Four (57%) samples tested positive, genotyping revealed genotype A. Enquiring about exposure to pet birds is essential when patients present with pneumonia. Reporting to health authorities, even across borders, is warranted to prevent further spread.