Temporal and spatial analysis of psittacosis in association with poultry farming in the Netherlands, 2000-2015

Hogerwerf, Lenny; Holstege, Manon M.C.; Benincà, Elisa; Dijkstra, Frederika; Hoek, Wim van der


Background: Human psittacosis is a highly under diagnosed zoonotic disease, commonly linked to psittacine birds. Psittacosis in birds, also known as avian chlamydiosis, is endemic in poultry, but the risk for people living close to poultry farms is unknown. Therefore, our study aimed to explore the temporal and spatial patterns of human psittacosis infections and identify possible associations with poultry farming in the Netherlands. Methods: We analysed data on 700 human cases of psittacosis notified between 01-01-2000 and 01-09-2015. First, we studied the temporal behaviour of psittacosis notifications by applying wavelet analysis. Then, to identify possible spatial patterns, we applied spatial cluster analysis. Finally, we investigated the possible spatial association between psittacosis notifications and data on the Dutch poultry sector at municipality level using a multivariable model. Results: We found a large spatial cluster that covered a highly poultry-dense area but additional clusters were found in areas that had a low poultry density. There were marked geographical differences in the awareness of psittacosis and the amount and the type of laboratory diagnostics used for psittacosis, making it difficult to draw conclusions about the correlation between the large cluster and poultry density. The multivariable model showed that the presence of chicken processing plants and slaughter duck farms in a municipality was associated with a higher rate of human psittacosis notifications. The significance of the associations was influenced by the inclusion or exclusion of farm density in the model. Conclusions: Our temporal and spatial analyses showed weak associations between poultry-related variables and psittacosis notifications. Because of the low number of psittacosis notifications available for analysis, the power of our analysis was relative low. Because of the exploratory nature of this research, the associations found cannot be interpreted as evidence for airborne transmission of psittacosis from poultry to the general population. Further research is needed to determine the prevalence of C. psittaci in Dutch poultry. Also, efforts to promote PCR-based testing for C. psittaci and genotyping for source tracing are important to reduce the diagnostic deficit, and to provide better estimates of the human psittacosis burden, and the possible role of poultry.