Pigeon mess in workplace, strange its got in to a bad state
before clean up and pest control?
HEALTH HAZARDS ASSOCIATED WITH PIGEON, BIRD AND BAT
Health risks from birds and bats are often
exaggerated. Nevertheless, large populations of roosting birds
may present the risk of disease to people nearby. The most
serious health risks arise from disease organisms that can grow
in the nutrient-rich accumulations of bird droppings, feathers
and debris under a roost — particularly if roosts have been
active for years. External parasites also may become a problem
when infested birds or bats leave roosts or nests. The parasites
then can invade buildings and bite people.
Histoplasmosis is caused by a fungus (Histoplasma capsulatum)
found primarily in the areas drained by the Mississippi and Ohio
rivers. Both humans and animals can be affected. The disease is
transmitted to humans by airborne fungus spores from soil
contaminated by pigeon and starling droppings (as well as from
the droppings of other birds and bats). The soil under a roost
usually has to have been enriched by droppings for two years or
more for the disease organism to reach significant levels.
Although almost always associated with soil, the fungus has been
found in droppings (particularly from bats) alone, such as in an
Infection occurs when spores, carried by the air are
inhaled — especially after a roost has been disturbed. Most
infections are mild and produce either no symptoms or a minor
influenza- like illness. On occasion, the disease can cause high
fever, blood abnormalities, pneumonia and even death. In some
areas, including portions of Illinois, up to 80 percent of the
population show evidence of previous infection. Outbreaks of
histoplasmosis have occurred in Central Illinois.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) has reported a potentially
blinding eye condition — presumed ocular histoplasmosis syndrome
(OHS) — that probably results from the fungus. NIH estimates
that 4 percent of those exposed to the disease are at risk of
Pigeon droppings appear to be the most important source of the
disease fungusCryptococcus neoformans in the environment. The
fungus is typically found in accumulations of droppings around
roosting and nesting sites, for example, attics, cupolas, ledges
and water towers. It has been found in as many as 84 percent of
samples taken from old roosts. Even when old and dry, bird
droppings can be a significant source of infection.
histoplasmosis, most cryptococcosis infections are mild and may
be without symptoms. Persons with weakened immune systems,
however, are more susceptible to infection. The disease is
acquired by inhaling the yeast-like cells of the organism. Two
forms of cryptococcosis occur in humans. The generalized form
begins with a lung infection and spreads to other areas of the
body, particularly the central nervous system, and is usually
fatal unless treated. The cutaneous (skin) form is characterized
by acne-like skin eruptions or ulcers with nodules just under
the skin. The cutaneous form is very rare, however, without
generalized (systemic) disease. Outbreaks (multiple cases at a
location) of cryptococcosis infections have not been documented.
Other diseases carried or transmitted by birds affect man to a
lesser degree. Psittacosis is normally mild in man; however,
serious illness can occur rarely. Pigeons and sparrows also have
been implicated (along with many other species of birds) as
reservoirs for encephalitis viruses such as West Nile
encephalitis virus, which are carried by mosquitoes.
Bats and disease
Bats are associated with a few diseases that affect people, such
as rabies and histoplasmosis. Rabies is a dangerous, fatal
disease, but only about 5 percent of bats submitted for testing
are infected with the rabies virus. In recent years, there has
been increased concern about the risk of rabies transmission
following contact with bats. If an injured or ill bat is found
in or around a structure, it should be removed. Because most
bats will try to bite when handled, they should be picked up
with tongs or a shovel. If a bat has bitten or scratched a
person or pet or is found in your home, capture the bat without
touching it with your hands and without crushing its head. If
the bat is dead, refrigerate it (DO NOT freeze) and then contact
your local health department immediately for instructions.
Bats with rabies have been identified in most areas of the
state. In recent years, bats have been the most common animal
identified with rabies in the state.
The incidence of
histoplasmosis being transmitted from bat droppings to humans is
not thought to be high. Nevertheless, fresh bat droppings
(unlike fresh bird dropping) can contain the histoplasmosis
fungus. Bat droppings do not need to come into contact with soil
to be a source of the disease.
Ticks, mites and other
Bird or bat roosts can harbor parasites that
may invade buildings. Although these parasites can bite and
irritate, they are unlikely to transmit diseases to humans. The
northern fowl mite and chicken mite are usually the main
culprits. Other parasites that may cause problems inside
buildings include the pigeon nest bug and the bat bug (both
related to the bed bug), soft ticks, biting lice and the pigeon
fly. Although most parasites associated with bird or bat roosts
die quickly after the birds or bats leave, some may live for
Droppings, feathers, food and dead birds
under a roosting area can breed flies, carpet beetles and other
insects that may become major problems in the immediate area.
These pests may fly through open windows or crawl through cracks
to enter buildings. If birds or bats are discouraged from
roosting around buildings, most of the parasites associated with
them will soon die. If the pests are a problem after birds or
bats have been excluded, the roost area may be treated with a
residual insecticide appropriately labeled for control of
fleas, ticks, mites and similar pests.
and cleanup of bird and bat droppings
is a small accumulation of droppings from a few birds or bats,
it can be cleaned up with soap and water. If large quantities of
bird or bat droppings are present, contact an environmental
engineering consultant for advice.
Workers should follow
certain precautions to minimize risk from disease organisms in
During the cleanup, seal heating and cooling
air ducts or shut the system down. Only authorized cleanup
personnel should be present.
The cleanup should be done by
Wear a respirator that can filter
particles as small as 0.3 microns.
Wear disposable protective
gloves, hat, coveralls and shoe coverings.
droppings with a light mist of water to keep spores from
becoming airborne and keep them wet.
Put droppings into
sealed plastic garbage bags. The outside of the garbage bags
should be rinsed off before they are placed in a disposal
When finished and while still wearing the
respirator, remove protective clothing and place it in a plastic
Wash or shower.
Check with local government
agencies to verify that disposal of the waste is permissible
through standard trash pickup.
Modify the structure to
prevent birds or bats from reestablishing the roost.