Man's pet birds gave him rare case of 'parrot fever'

Most of us aren’t thinking much about our hobbies when we land in bed with the flu or other nasty bug. A new case study, though, suggests that telling your doctor about your pastimes and household pets might actually help them figure out what’s wrong.

That’s what happened when a 61-year-old man in England ended up in the hospital after a week of fever, coughing, breathlessness and just feeling lousy in general. At first, it looked like the flu. Lung X-rays showed that he’d developed pneumonia, which can happen in some influenza patients.

But then bouts of forgetfulness, increasing confusion, a rash, and on the third day of hospitalization, a seizure – not typical of the flu – convinced doctors that they were dealing with something else altogether.

The unusual case is described in this week’s edition of The BMJ medical journal by doctors at George Eliot Hospital, in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, U.K.

During the man’s stay in intensive care, his health care team learned something that would help unravel the medical mystery. It turned out the man owned a slew of pet birds, including a cockatiel, parrots, finches, a budgie, lovebirds, doves, chickens and more. Two of his feathered friends had died recently, which raised suspicion his illness might be linked with theirs, wrote the authors.

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