Health officials in Georgia and Virginia are investigating a multistate outbreak of psittacosis occurring at two poultry slaughter plants owned by a single corporation. Chlamydia psittaci, the type of bacteria that causes psittacosis, was detected by a laboratory test in 10 people. Additional illnesses in workers at the two plants have been identified, although have not been confirmed by the laboratory.

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The affected plants in Virginia and Georgia voluntarily suspended operations for cleaning.

  • On September 8, 2018, the affected plant in Virginia suspended operations. The plant reopened on September 18, 2018.
  • On September 15, 2018, the affected plant in Georgia suspended operations. The plant reopened on September 19, 2018.

Plant management held town hall meetings in both plants to inform their workers about the outbreak.

The latest data suggest that this outbreak is only affecting people who work at the identified poultry slaughter plants. Public health officials are investigating whether other people exposed to chickens (e.g., farmers, truck drivers) that were shipped to the affected plants got sick. At this time, investigators do not believe people working outside of this industry or consumers are at risk.

The most common way someone gets infected with the bacteria that cause psittacosis (Chlamydia psittaci) is by breathing in dust containing dried secretions (e.g., droppings, respiratory) from infected birds. There is no evidence that these bacteria can spread by preparing or eating chicken meat.

It is rare for psittacosis to spread from person to person. In this outbreak, infection among family members who are not workers at the affected plants has not been reported.

In general, psittacosis causes mild illness in people. The most common symptoms include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Dry cough

Psittacosis can also cause pneumonia (a lung infection) that may require treatment or care in a hospital. Rarely, psittacosis can result in death.

Most people begin developing signs and symptoms of psittacosis within 5 to 14 days after exposure to the bacteria (C. psittaci). Occasionally, people report the start of symptoms after more than 14 days.

 CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are assisting with the investigation.