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Diseases Spread by Pigeons

Posted on February 25th, 2015 by Panther Pest Control Team
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Pigeons are everywhere and known by a lot of people as ‘rats with wings’. Although a harsh term for this pretty bird they are considered vermin and can transmit some nasty diseases. Pigeon control measures are frequently taken by authorities to try and curb the rapid increase in numbers. Descended from rock doves the feral pigeon has adapted very well to living alongside humans. The problems for disease occur when density levels are very high with droppings and feathers accumulating at roosting sites. These noxious piles contain a few known diseases that can affect humans.

pigeon-diseases

Title: Pigeons
Author: Thangaraj Kumaravel
License Type: CC BY 2.0

Histoplasmosis

How Is It Transferred: Histoplasmosis is a fungal disease that can be caught when spores of Histoplasma capsulatum are inhaled. The spores are extremely light and move freely in the air. Histoplasmosis fungus thrives in moist areas, which are rich in organic material like bird and bat droppings. That’s why chicken coops, caves old barns and similar are perfect for the fungus. Its spores can be inhaled while cleaning bird droppings.

Hiistoplasma Capuslatum

Title: Histoplasma Capsulatum – the fungus causing Histoplasmosis Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org
License: CC0 Public Domain

Symtoms Of Histoplasmosis:

  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • Rash and joint pain in some people

There are a few types of histoplasmosis infections. People suffering from mild forms of histoplasmosis won’t show any symptoms of infection. The more severe desease varieties symptoms will show from three to seventeen days after exposure. Signs of the illness include flu-like symptoms with chest pains, fever and fatigue among them. Some however can be more serious. Those with weak immune systems can suffer very high fever, blood abnormalities, pneumonia and in a few instances this can be fatal.
If there are any sources of diseases spread by pigeons nearby your home, it’s highly recommended to call professional exterminators immediately.
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Cryptococcosis

How Is It Transferred: Cryptococcosis is also fungal in nature and found at nesting sites with as much as 84% of sites testing positive. Even old dry droppings at abandoned roosts contain the spores of the fungus, which when inhaled, cause the infection.

criptococcosis-infection-of-the-lungs

Title: Cryptococcosis – Mucicarmine stain
Author: Yale Rosen License Type: CC BY-SA 2.0 Image Source: www.flickr.com

Symptoms Of Cryptococcosis :

  • Pneumonia-like symptoms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Skin lesions

Like Histoplasmosis most Cryptococcal infections are mild and many do not show symptoms at all and usually infects people with compromised immune system, like HIV-positive people or those with very weak immunity. However some are quite serious. There are two forms of this disease that can be contracted. The generalized form begins when inhaled yeast-like cells cause a lung infection. This then spreads to other areas of the body with the central nervous system usually affected causing meningoencephalitis. Without treatment it is very often fatal. The second form is very rare causing blisters or ulcers under the skin that resemble acne.
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Psittacosis

Psittacosis is an infectious bacterial pathogen also known as Parrot Fever or ornithosis caused by Chlamydophila psittaci. This can be transmitted to humans when droppings dry out and become airborne.

C. psittaci, Parrot fever

Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org
Title: Chlamydophila psittaci FA stain
Author: CDC/Dr. Vester Lewis
License: CC0 Public Domain

Symptoms Of Psittacosis:

  • Bloody sputum (mixture of saliva and mucus spit out when coughing)
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Head and joint aches
  • Muscle pain, especially in the head and neck
  • Shortness of breath

A very rare but in some cases potent infection with symptoms ranging again from mild flu like illness to full blown pneumonia and even death. With the possibility of many complications, like the swelling of brain tissue occurring during infection, long term damage can also result.

Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is usually associated with cat faeces. The parasite that causes this nasty disease (Taxoplasma gondii) however can be found in just about every warm blooded creature. Again this disease rarely shows in those who are healthy and strong, as their immune systems keep the parasite from causing an infection. And studies have shown as many as one third of the population carry the parasite. The problems occur in the people with weak immunity  and especially pregnant women. Mothers-to-be can transmit the infection to the child.

Toxoplasmosis parasite

Image Source: commons.wikipedia.org
Title: Toxoplasmosa gondii parasite
Author: Ke Hu and John M. Murray
License Type:CC BY 4.0

Symptoms Of Toxoplasmosis :

  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Chest pain

Toxoplasmosis can can develop in three types- latent, acute and cutaneous (affecting the skin).

  1. Latent: The latent type does not show any visible symptom. When latent form affects the person it causes cysts in the muscle and nervous tissues, forming lesions or tissue cysts in the retinas, brain and alveolar lining of the lungs.
  2. Acute: AcuteToxoplasmosis shows the flu-like symptoms from the short ckecklist above and can be often mistaken for Influenza. When people with weak immune systems are infected, they may experience acute headache, poor coordination, seizures, confusion and blurred vision because of severe retina inflamation. Acute cases often result in encephalitis and or necrotizing retinochoroiditis.
  3. Cutaneous: CutaneousToxoplasmosis reveals itself in the form of skin problems like roseola (also known as infants rose rash, exanthema subitum, sixth disease,  and three-day fever, baby measles) in children under 2 years. Erythema is the second skin rash which might occur as a symptom in people who are infected, also called Bull’s Eye Rash.

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Other Ways Pigeon Could Get Infected And Transfer Diseases To People:

There are other ways pigeons can transfer disease, via mosquitoes and other parasites. With winters becoming milder mosquitoes are surviving more and more and rapidly becoming potential killers. By biting a pigeon that is infected with one of the encephalitis viruses, a mosquito can then transmit this to a human by biting them. Although extremely rare at the moment it is entirely possible that the likes of West Nile Fever may become a more common occurrence in the near future.

Prevention Measures:

A pigeon problem may just seem a messy inconvenience at the moment, with only a few instances of disease reported each year. But as our climate changes and more pathogens are able to survive, it may well be a major concern in the future. With this in mind authorities are thinking of new ways to combat the rising pigeon population. In some cities a reintroduction of falcons is under way. As natural predators they cull the population and also encourage dispersal into smaller groups away from human habitation. Another method on trial in Lowestoft has been to create ideal breeding areas for pigeons away from humans. This has met with success and is being closely monitored by other councils and may be adopted as well.

Pigeon Sanitation and Disinfection

To minimize the risks of disease and contact with harmful pathogens, Panther Pest Control introduced pest sanitation and pest disinfection services.
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Sanitation comes useful for minor infestation when the traces of the pests are hardly visible but bacteria is still there. Such situations are controlled with the help of an expert cleaner who comes to your home and swipes off all contaminated surfaces with cleaning agents.

After pigeon control though, we recommend a pest disinfection in addition to the sanitation as birds also transmit various pathogens. A technician will come to the place after the bird control is finished and will spray the whole area with a special biocide that eliminates all traces of bacteria. This will set the risk of disease transmission to an absolute minimum.