In just a few weeks, Erica Richards has been transformed from a vibrant 23-year-old who loved nature into a woman who’s battling for her life.
In early January, Richards contracted a potentially fatal condition called cryptococcal meningitis, a fungal disease carried in the feces of pigeons.
The debilitating illness attacks the spine and the brain, causing severe swelling. It left her confined to a hospital bed in a state of delirium for weeks.
But the most devastating consequence of the sickness is that Richards is now blind.
“Be aware of this disease. It could kill a child in a heartbeat,” Richards said from her hospital bed.
“It could kill a senior in a heartbeat without you even having to worry about the symptoms. It comes on that fast. If you don’t realize the symptoms, it could kill you, too.”
Richards’ warning comes on the heels of Fredericton city council’s approval earlier this month of a recommendation it toughen its animal-control bylaw to make it illegal to feed pigeons.
While such complaints are unusual, a problem exists on the city’s Grandame Street with a property owner who refuses to stop feeding the birds. The pigeons are roosting on roofs and defecating.