ARTICLES > Roosting Birds and Disease: What You Need to Know
Roosting Birds and Disease: What You Need to Know
Where there are roosting birds, there is always the potential for disease to spread to humans. Over 40 known viruses and 60 diseases are directly associated with birds and their droppings. These diseases vary in seriousness from minor stomach ailments to fatal diseases such as cryptococcosis and histoplasmosis, which is now most common. (See more below.) At least one outbreak of Legionnaires' disease was caused by people inhaling air contaminated with fecal matter contaminants.
There are other hazards as well. Wet bird droppings can lead to people slipping and falling on sidewalks and other solid surfaces. Bird roosts are frequently infested with flies as well as several species of parasites such as bird mites and ticks, which bite humans and can readily cause infection.
The presence of accumulated bird droppings can also block gutters and drains, and the acidity in bird droppings causes permanent damage to metal, paint, and other surfaces. Quite often the cost of repair and replacement of damaged surfaces exceeds the cost of exclusion.
Last, bird roosts are also quite smelly with the accumulation of droppings. For many, this fact alone is enough to make them think of getting rid of pest birds and installing a bird deterrent.
But clean up itself can be hazardous and ineffective if you don't do it right.
Hot Foot can help with free advice about cleanup as well as choosing and installing the appropriate bird deterrents. Call us directly at (800) 533-8421 to find out how we can help.
Histoplasmosis is one of the most common and deadly bird-borne diseases. It is a naturally occurring fungus which is found in the soil, though in low concentrations so that it does not pose much of a health hazard. However, this fungus thrives in the warm, wet, and nitrogen-rich environment of bird and bat feces, multiplying to dangerous levels. The spores normally enter the body by breathing them in, entering through the lungs and traveling through the body.
Birds can carry histoplasmosis fungus on their legs, feet, wings etc. but they are not infected with histoplasmosis, most likely because of their high body temperature. However bats do carry and do excrete histoplasmosis. Animals such as dogs, cats, rats, skunks, and foxes also are susceptible to this disease.
It is estimated that in America alone, 50 million people have been infected with this fungus. Approximately 500,000 people test positive each year, resulting in about 800 deaths nationwide.
It usually appears as mild, flu-like symptoms including chest pain and dry cough. A chest X-Ray will show a very distinctive pattern like "snowballs."
Once airborne, these spores can be carried for quite long distances. According to the CDC, view article, the wind played a significant role in the three largest known outbreaks of histoplasmosis on record, all occurring in Indianapolis:
1978: 120,000 people infected and 15 died.
1980: similar to 1978
1988: underlined how it attacks those already ill - 50% of the cases were contracted by people already compromised with AIDS
In 1978 the American Journal of Epidemiology reported view article, that workers were shoveling excessive bird droppings from the roof of a courthouse to the ground for removal. The dust from this procedure was picked up by the window air conditioners and re-distributed throughout the entire building. Over 50% of the occupants contracted histoplasmosis and one person had only been in the building for 10 minutes.
Several cases of cryptococcal meningitis have been reported where workers exposed to bird droppings have developed a chronic inflammation of the brain tissue. A window cleaner in California lost 50% of his lung capacity because he came into regular contact with bird droppings on window ledges. In fact it occurs so frequently that it has been referred to "window washer's disease."
The bottom line: anyone can be infected with these and other diseases. The more time you spend around bird droppings, the more likely it is to happen to you. Don't put yourself at risk! The best way to protect yourself and those around you is to get rid of the feces, get rid of the birds, and stop them from coming back to roost.
Contact Hot Foot directly at (800) 533-8421 for help and tips, including finding a qualified contractor in your area.