Whether you plan on having a flock of your own as pets or love to feed the feral pigeons. You, as their guardian angel, must know how to treat these dominating bird species correctly. Whether you reside in urban areas, cities, or towns, the scenario of an early morning pigeon flight cruising by is simply exquisite.
Nonetheless, coming into close contact with these creatures can often be just as hazardous as dealing with a common rat. As the feral birds might carry a few traditional and rare diseases, the importance of grasping the transmission and spreading risks from pigeon diseases to humans is on the rise too.
Let’s regard this matter for a safer approach so that you and your beloved aerial friend can live carefree lives, whether commercially or domesticated.
Can pigeons transmit diseases to humans?
Sadly, yes. Pigeons can transmit diseases to humans. In most cases, this transmission takes place through the pigeon’s droppings and feces. The fact is that the delivery is only viable through dry feces.
Unless we have pets as pigeons or work as veterinarians or pet shop owners, it’s pretty unusual to come into direct contact with pigeons’ fecal matter. Consequently, receiving any infection, fungus, or virus through their droppings is quite a rare scenario, especially as dry droppings are the main culprit here.
The dry feces are airborne; therefore, they might travel into human airways. It might seem like a stretch, but the dry droppings on your car, rooftop, or windowsills that you’ve been scrubbing to get rid of? Yes, that’s the bare minimum contact that you need to be the victim.
When the droppings turn into dried powder form, they are even easier to inhale. To be frank, you wouldn’t even notice the particles traveling into your system. However, this transportation is enough for the pathogens to get inside your body and infect it.
What diseases do pigeons carry?
If you’re a beginner in this wildlife getaway, you must have a few questions about pigeons carrying diseases and what they are. To begin with, yes, both feral and pet pigeons can catch several diseases, but, most significantly, some of them can be delivered to the human body. Yikes.
The first vital reason for such transmissions is that pigeons like to nest within their feces, a magnet for diseases like mites. But, more on that later. For now, let’s get to know a few of the most common pigeon diseases.
- Cryptococcosis – This disease can be found in the intestinal tracts of birds. A primary reason for this is the yeast present in those tracts. If left untreated, it can generate issues in the central nervous system.
- Salmonella – Salmonella is just another word for food poisoning. It is caused when infected feces transfer the infection to food contents. The transmission can be vague as the feces turn to dust particles and transfers to water and food via air.
- Candidiasis – This is a respiratory disease that can occur from fungus-infected droppings. The principal affected areas of this disease are the intestines, respiratory system, skin, and mouth.
- Histoplasmosis – When there’s evident growth of fungus inside the pigeon’s feces, it can cause histoplasmosis, especially if left unsupervised.
- Louis encephalitis – If mosquitoes feed on an infected pigeon’s blood, they will bear that pathogen and spread it around. St Louis transmission can be lethal for adults over the age of 60. However, they might not create much havoc for the younger generations. The initial and very first symptoms of this disease are headaches, fever, and drowsiness.
- Coli. – When pigeon’s feces contaminate food and water contents, this disease can be transmitted. The symptoms and causes of this surround cramps, fever, and nausea.
Unfortunately, the spreading does not stop there. Pigeons regularly come in contact with other species and insects responsible for spreading the diseases even more. These carriers are known as ectoparasites which can carry and distribute pathogens to the human body. Ectoparasites can also act in such manners while piggyback riding on the pigeons, making contact with the disease.
As deadly as it sounds, the affected numbers of such diseases aren’t that alarming. In reality, only two-thirds of these birds can practically cause the harm we speak of to humans. Besides, the symptoms and concerns would only restrict to minor scratching or itching.
A few notorious ectoparasites are chicken mites, bed bugs, the West Nile virus, and the yellow mealworms.
What diseases can humans get from pigeons?
On an unlucky note, even with pigeons’ popularity and pet-friendly promotions, a sick pigeon’s contact can cause three main health issues to humans. These issues can also erupt when pigeons nest in your nearby community or building space. As we all know, the crucial mode of this spreading is via their droppings.
Let’s get to know some of these diseases in depth.
• Psittacosis –
Psittacosis is also known as parrot fever. The name gives it away; it primarily attacks parrots and other similar bird species like pigeons and cockatiels. However, as their droppings dry up and turn airborne, humans can inhale the fungus-filled particles and fall ill. The generic symptoms for psittacosis are pneumonia, chills, muscle ache, headache, fever, and dry cough.
After exposure, the symptoms should take around a week or two weeks to present themselves. Needless to say, veterinarians, pet shop owners, and employees, and pet owners are at the highest risk of vulnerability and falling into the traps of this disease due to their jeopardized immune systems. The good news is that psittacosis isn’t contagious amongst humans and can be treated.
• Cryptococcosis –
As we’ve already read about it before, cryptococcosis can affect humans’ respiratory and lungs system. It’s a fungal disease that can be transmitted via soil or pigeon feces. But the catch is that this disease will never endanger a healthy person.
Meaning, the chances of a healthy person falling ill due to a cryptococcosis infection is at zero, even if they endure an extensive level of exposure. If, however, a person with an imperiled immune system comes in contact, it can shoot up their risk and infection levels indefinitely.
• Histoplasmosis –
The fungus usually originates in the soil and bird feces, posing a health risk, mainly concerning the lungs, to humans. When in close proximity with the feces, for example, while cleaning the droppings, the person could inhale this fungus. This will, in return, prompt the person to obtain this infectious disease. A few everyday tasks that could shoot up the risks of histoplasmosis are cleaning windows or window sheds. As you get into touch with the feces during tasks as such, the risk exposure is at an all-time high.
By the end of one or three weeks, you will start to feel the infection take a toll. The symptoms usually include chest ache, cough, fever, and fatigue. On the contrary, most people who get affected by this disease don’t show any signs at all. But the ones who show indications or fall ill almost immediately ought to have a weaker immune system.
Luckily, histoplasmosis isn’t contagious and can be treated with medications. But more often than not, people recover without any aid.
How to clean pigeon feces?
Now the question has to be asked, how can we get rid of this stubborn feces? Because being a veterinarian or not, we’re all exposed to some levels of pigeon feces every day. Routine cleaning the car or windows is just another mindless task that we used to do, but now that seems far-fetched. What to do?
News flash! Even if you go around your way in cleaning your car or windowsills every other day during the week, it doesn’t pose any severe health risks. Moreover, the precautions are pretty simple too!
When you need to come into direct contact with bird feces while cleaning, always remember to put on a pair of gloves. Afterward, wash the clothes you were in as you’re done with the job. Before scrapping off the yucky droppings, make sure to get them. Not only is wet droppings easier to clean but, they pose no threat as they’re no longer in their vicious dust or powder form, which you could inhale.
If you’re a pet owner, veterinarian, or pet shop owner, ensure that you have a mask on at all times to protect yourself from airborne transmissions.
Lastly, we would like to confirm that pigeons aren’t the bad guys. Absolutely not. They’re just another creature that maintains the circle of life with their seamless food chain habits. As bad as it seems, think about it – how many times have you come across transmission cases of pigeon diseases to humans? Rarely, if ever.
Modern technology has come a long way with some of the best medications and precautionary modes. However, maintain precautions such as washing your hands and avoid putting your hands into your eyes or mouth after cleaning or feeding the birds.
In retrospect, if you have an inconsistent immune system, avoid any plausible contact with their feces. It really is that simple.