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Birds riddled with chlamydia could infect humans with new strains, experts fear

The number of birds with chlamydia has become a serious concern for scientists who fear a spread in humans.

Nearly one third of Australian birds being treating in animal hospitals having tested positive with a form of sexually transmitted disease.

Experts fear the rate of transmission of Chlamydia psittaci in birds could lead to human infections, causing flu-like symptoms for those who have been in close contact with them.

Most of the birds admitted into veterinary care have been hit by cars or attacked by cats or dogs and about a quarter were brought in because they looked unwell.

Investigating the illness, Martina Jelocnik's team at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, tested 564 birds from 107 different species at a wildlife hospital.

They found that 29% of the birds tested positive for one of several types of chlamydia including three strains that are entirely new to science.

Worryingly reports of bird to human infection have already started in Australia, New Scientist reports.

In the town of Bright, Victoria, 16 people contracted the bacteria through exposure to bird droppings while gardening which led to one death.

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Elsewhere a museum worker in South Australia suffered from pneumonia after catching chlamydia from dissecting an infected rosella parrot.

Ms Jelocnik admits that it is currently unclear if the three newly discovered strains of chlamydia could infect people and if so what the symptoms might be.

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The scientist said it is important for Australian birds to be monitored more closely and extra care to be taken by people who get close to them by wearing gloves and other protective gear.

Ms Jolocnik added: "We’re really just scratching the surface.

"We have a big task ahead of us – besides birds we should also look at other potential hosts like Australian wildlife and livestock, because we all share the same habitat so there’s risk of cross-transmission."

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