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Bird Droppings Health Risk

When it comes to birds, there may be more than just avian flu to be worried about. It has been suggested that there are over 60 other diseases that birds and their droppings can carry. The problem is especially worrisome in residential areas, as many of them are airborne and can be transferred to humans just by being around droppings.

Examples Of Transmissible Bird Diseases Associated With Pigeons, Geese, Starling And House Sparrows: 

  • Histoplasmosis is a respiratory disease that may be fatal. It results from a fungus growing in dried bird droppings.
  • Candidiasis is a yeast or fungus infection spread by pigeons. The disease affects the skin, the mouth, the respiratory system, the intestines and the urogenital tract, especially the vagina. It is a growing problem for women, causing itching, pain and discharge.
  • Cryptococcosis is caused by yeast found in the intestinal tract of pigeons and starlings. The illness often begins as a pulmonary disease and may later affect the central nervous system. Since attics, cupolas, ledges, schools, offices, warehouses, mills, barns, park buildings, signs, etc. are typical roosting and nesting sites, the fungus is apt to found in these areas.
  • St. Louis Encephalitis, an inflammation of the nervous system, usually causes drowsiness, headache and fever. It may even result in paralysis, coma or death. St. Louis encephalitis occurs in all age groups, but is especially fatal to persons over age 60. The disease is spread by mosquitoes which have fed on infected house sparrow, pigeons and house finches carrying the Group B virus responsible for St. Louis encephalitis.
  • Salmonellosis often occurs as “food poisoning” and can be traced to pigeons, starlings and sparrows. The disease bacteria are found in bird droppings; dust from droppings can be sucked through ventilators and air conditioners, contaminating food and cooking surfaces in restaurants, homes and food processing plants.
  • E.coli. Cattle carry E. coli 0157:H7. When birds peck on cow manure, the E. coli go right through the birds and the bird droppings can land on or in a food or water supply.

Besides being direct carriers of disease, nuisance birds are frequently associated with over 50 kinds of ectoparasites, which can work their way throughout structures to infest and bite Bird droppings can contaminate municipal water sources and food, causing outbreaks of gastroenteritis due to bacterial species such as CamplobacterSalmonella and fecal coliform organisms. The primary mode of transmission of these organisms to humans is through inadvertent eating of bird droppings containing the bacteria. Birds are not permitted in food-handling areas of retail food-handling facilities because of the potential of food contamination by bird feces. In some local health jurisdictions, the presence of a single bird in a food-handling area necessitates immediate closure of the facility until the bird is removed. Persons working with populations of birds and bird droppings must practice good hand washing to prevent hand to mouth contact with the droppings from occurring.humans. About two-thirds of these pests may be detrimental to the general health and well-being of humans and domestic animals. The rest are considered nuisance or incidental pests.

Although there are no documented cases of bird control specialists causing outbreaks of histoplasmosis, cryptococcocis or gastroenteritis, other professions such as maintenance workers, bridge painters and farmers have cleaned bird droppings in a way that resulted in significant human cases. Here are a few things to keep in mind while cleaning up bird droppings:

  • All droppings should be considered infectious.
  • Always wear disposable protective clothing, shoe coverings, respirator protection capable of excluding particles of 0.3 micron size or a supplied air respirator with full face piece, and gloves. Dispose of all protective clothing in plastic bags.
  • Saturate the droppings with water or other approved liquid before removing them to prevent debris and pathogens from becoming airborne. The use of high-pressure hoses may scatter droppings before they are appropriately wetted.
  • Do not perform bird excrement removal in public buildings during normal working hours. When possible, schedule the removal for weekends or other periods of minimal building use. All heating and cooling system air intakes should be closed during cleanup.
  • Provide signage and barricades during the clean up to exclude the public.
  • Dispose of droppings and associated soil in 3 millimetre or thicker plastic bags and transport them to a landfill immediately.


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