Have you ever heard of parrot fever? It sounds like a craze in which everyone wants a parrot, but it is the common name for an illness that was considered pretty serious in 1930. Some parrot owners fell ill with symptoms that resembled typhoid, but was not.
This was a serious problem. Parrot fever is a very real disease—and an unpleasant one at that. Caused by the bacteria Chlamydia psittaci, parrot fever (or psittacosis) can be contracted after coming into close contact with infected parrots, pigeons, ducks, gulls, chickens, turkeys, and dozens of other bird species. The symptoms resemble pneumonia or typhoid fever, with victims suffering from extremely low white blood cell counts, high fevers, pounding headaches, and respiratory problems. Today the disease can be treated with antibiotics, but in 1930, 20 percent of victims were expected to die.
The story of parrot fever, however, would prove to spread much faster than the disease itself.
We still don’t know how many actual cases of parrot fever befell Americans in 1930, but we know that President Herbert Hoover banned parrots from entering the country, and many existing pets paid a steep price. Read about the parrot panic of 1930 at Mental Floss.
(Image credit: Heitor Augusto Pereira)