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Pest Birds and the Diseases they Transmit | Bird•B•Gone Blog

Pest Birds and the Diseases they Transmit

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Pigeons and other Pest Birds often make nests in buildings and
rapidly reproduce. Breeding occurs throughout the year, usually taking
place between March and July. Contact with pigeon droppings may pose a
health risk. Three human diseases are known to be associated with
pigeon droppings: histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, and psittacosis.

       


Histoplasmosis

       

Histoplasmosis
is a disease caused by a fungus, which grows in pigeon droppings. It
also grows in soils and is found throughout the world. When cleaning
droppings a person may breathe in some of the fungus, which in cases of
high exposure can cause infection. Common activities, such as cleaning
off windowsills, will not result in high exposures.
Symptoms of
histoplasmosis begin to appear about 10 days after initial infection
and include fatigue, fever, and chest pains. Most people, however, do
not show any symptoms. Those with compromised immune systems such as
cancer patients or people living with HIV/AIDS are generally more at
risk of developing histoplasmosis.

       

Cryptococcosis

       

Cryptococcosis
is another fungal disease associated with pigeon droppings and also
grows in soils throughout the world. It is very unlikely that healthy
people will become infected even at high levels of exposure. A major
risk factor for infection is a compromised immune system. Researchers
at Albert Einstein Collage of medicine in the Bronx found that 70% of
urban children have been exposed to Cryptococcosis.

       

Psittacosis

       

Psittacosis
(also known as ornithosis or parrot fever) is a rare infectious disease
that mainly affects parrots and parrot-like birds such as cockatiels,
and parakeets, but may also affect other birds, such as pigeons. When
bird droppings dry and become airborne people may inhale them and get
sick.
In humans, this bacterial disease is characterized by:
fatigue, fever, headache, rash, chills, and sometimes pneumonia.
Symptoms develop about 10 days after exposure. Psittacosis can be
treated with a common antibiotic.

       

Cleaning Up Pest Bird Droppings

       

Protecting the health of both workers who clean up pigeon droppings and the general public is important.

       

Cleaning Droppings
            
Before any extensive clean-up measures are taken – e.g., removing
accumulations inside an air shaft – workers should be informed of the
possible health risks involved, particularly those with weakened immune
systems. Even though histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, and psittacosis
pose minor public health threats, they can be further minimized if
safety measures are taken. Wearing protective clothing like disposable
coveralls, boots, gloves, and respirators can be used for protection.
If a high-powered water hose is used to strip off dried droppings, dust
control measures such as containing the area with plastic sheeting,
should be taken. Wetting down the work area will prevent inhalation,
reduce the risk of infection and will also prevent the spread of dust
outside the work area. Those with a compromised immune system such as
people living with HIV/AIDS or cancer patients should not be directly
involved in the removal of the droppings. Always wash hands and any
exposed skin before eating or drinking and when finished with work.
Several alternatives to using a high-powered water hose exist. One such
alternative includes soaking the droppings with water and then
shoveling it. The wet material should be collected in heavy-duty
plastic bags or another type of secure container and discarded with the
regular trash.
Once the structures are cleaned they should have bird control products
installed to prevent further accumulation of droppings.

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