Polly doesn't want Psittacosis

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- If you've bought a bird from PetSmart lately or if you're looking for one, we've got some important information you need to know about.

It's a bacterial disease called psittacosis and because of it, PetSmart has pulled all of its birds out of its stores in 46 states, including Tennessee.

PetSmart sent a letter at the end of December to customers who purchased a bird on or before October 3rd, warning them of the health risks.

"They've discovered it because they actually test their birds for psittacosis," said Dr. Cheryl Greenacre, a UT Avian Veterinarian.

PetSmart found the disease in cockatiels from a Florida vendor they use.

"Psittacosis is a disease caused by a bacteria that not only birds can get, but people can get it from the birds," said Dr. Greenacre. "All it takes is just a little sneeze from that cockatiel and from that, it spreads to everyone in the shop."

That's why PetSmart pulled all of its birds from 775 stores in 46 states on December 18th.

Strictly Feathers store owner Gwen Woodard loves her birds more than anything and makes sure all of them are tested for psittacosis, because it's air born.

"If you're using your A/C system or your heating unit, it spreads through anything that the air goes through,” said Woodard.

Which means it can easily spread to the birds human companion.

"Just kissing the bird or sharing a glass of juice with the bird or just breathing in the dried feces is enough,” said Dr. Greenacre.

The flu-like symptoms can be treated with antibiotics from your doctor, but if left alone, problems can develop.

“It can be quite serious and you keep going down hill,” she said. “Then there have been occasions where people have died of psittacosis."

If you have a bird, keep a close eye on him.

"Generally birds will show respiratory problems, problems breathing or they may show diarrhea," said Dr. Greenacre.

Remember, the little bird may look perfectly healthy, but sometimes looking alone is not enough to tell if something's wrong.

"Birds are so good at hiding signs of disease," said Dr. Greenacre.

"You just need to be really careful about where you buy your birds from,” said Woodard.

Experts like Dr. Greenacre say as soon as you notice anything unusual in your bird, take it to a veterinarian to be tested right away.

PetSmart says it’s hoping to have all of its birds treated and back in stores by February.

You can read more about psittacosis and PetSmart’s response by clicking on the Hot Key.

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