PetSmart stopping bird sales from supplier associated with "parrot fever" - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

PetSmart stopping bird sales from supplier associated with "parrot fever"

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ATLANTA, GA (WIS) - Several Georgia pet stores have been quarantined after an outbreak of a bird disease which can be transferred to humans.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture is quarantining PetSmart stores in the state and a Superpetz store in Martinez due to psittacosis, Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin announced Friday. 

When WIS News 10 asked PetSmart about its South Carolina stores, they said all stores serviced by Preferred Bird are not selling any birds at this time.

Psittacosis is a bacterial disease that primarily affects parrots, parakeets, other members of the parrot family, and sometimes poultry.  It is treatable but can be fatal to the birds.

The disease produces flu-like symptoms in humans, but does not respond to treatments for the flu. The disease is especially dangerous to the young, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems such as persons with chronic disease, AIDS or HIV infection or those taking chemotherapy for cancer.

"We have had two confirmed cases of psittacosis at PetSmart stores in Hiram and Woodstock.  There have also been confirmed cases at the dealer, Preferred Birds of Milton, Florida, that supplied birds to all the stores we are quarantining," said Commissioner Irvin.

"PetSmart had already begun a quarantine, but the quarantine did not meet all state requirements.  We are requiring PetSmart and Superpetz to move the birds away from the public and to begin using medicated feed to treat the birds.  The quarantine will last 45 days or until released by our State Veterinarian," said Commissioner Irvin.

The quarantine applies only to birds sold at the stores, not to other animals.

WIS News 10 called the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, the State Veterinarian, and the Department of Health and Environmental Services to see if any precautions have been taken to ensure the disease doesn't spread to South Carolina pet stores.

A spokesperson from DHEC says they did receive notification from Florida last week. PetSmart was contacting its own Florida stores and the Florida help department approved of their course of action. DHEC left PetSmart to its own protocol and then contacted the five South Carolina Superpetz to see if they had any cases, but there were none. They also talked to Clemson Livestock Division as well as the state lab to see what protocol would be if a case were found.  

They say there was never a threat to the public in South Carolina and that they had multiple epidemiologists working this case all last week.    

If you purchased a bird from PetSmart or the Martinez Superpetz and have concerns about its health, please contact your veterinarian, or if you have concerns about your health, contact your health care provider or local health department.

PetSmart has released a handout about the disease, which follows:

What is psittacosis and how is it spread?

Psittacosis (also known as chlamydophila) is an infection caused by bacteria that can be carried by birds. In rare cases, it can cause a respiratory infection in humans similar to a cold or flu and is treatable with antibiotics.

Exposure in humans typically comes from inhaling dust from dirty bird habitats containing dried feces, or from hand-to-mouth exposure after contact with birds or bird feces. The risk of contracting psittacosis from handling a bird is unlikely, particularly when good hygiene practices are followed.

Psittacosis can infect many bird species, but is usually found in birds of the parrot family. It can cause a bird to appear drowsy, eat poorly, and have runny eyes or nose and diarrhea.

How can I protect myself? How can I prevent infection?

Good hygiene practices are generally all that are required to prevent the risk of contracting bacterial infections, such as psittacosis. More specifically:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and warm running water after touching pets or any objects and surfaces that a pet has also touched, especially after cleaning a pet's habitat.
  • Children should always be supervised when handling pets, especially since they tend to put their fingers in their mouths.
  • If you are pregnant or have a compromised immune system, avoid contact with reptiles, baby chicks, and ducklings.
  • As always, PetSmart recommends that small pets only be purchased from reputable retailers or breeders. We discourage buying small pets at swap meets, auctions or other unregulated public venues.

What measures does PetSmart take to prevent the spread of psittacosis?

As part of our preventative health program, we work closely with our vendors and veterinarians to ensure the health and safety of our associates, customers and the pets in our care. The precautions we have in place with our vendors help reduce the risk of disease.

  • We conduct rigorous and regular inspections of all suppliers' facilities to ensure safe, sanitary pet housing, proper pet care and pet handling procedures.
  • We require all associates to wash their hands before and after handling all the pets we sell in our stores. Also, we require pet care associates to wear gowns, goggles, gloves and masks during regular cleaning of the habitats.
  • PetSmart communicates with our associates frequently to ensure they're aware of the latest developments and precautionary measures. Our associates are trained and educated to provide the highest standards of care for all the pets in our stores.
  • Customers are required to review the pet sales record that contains information regarding the responsibilities of pet ownership, preventive measures, symptoms and treatments of diseases, including psittacosis or chlamydophila, that can be associated with pets before taking a pet home.
  • We encourage anyone with questions or concerns to let us know.

Click here for more information from PetSmart>>

Updated by Logan Smith

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