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How dangerous is Pigeon Poop?

Pigeon droppings, often seen as a mere nuisance in urban areas, pose a significant health risk due to the diseases they can carry.

By Ground report
New Update
How dangerous is Pigeon Poop?

Pigeon droppings, often seen as a mere nuisance in urban areas, pose a significant health risk due to the diseases they can carry. The health concerns associated with pigeon droppings are not just limited to unsightly messes on buildings and statues but extend to serious medical conditions that can affect humans.

Psittacosis, also known as parrot fever, is one such disease caused by the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci. This infection can spread to humans from birds, particularly from infected pigeons. While it may present mild flu-like symptoms initially, it can progress to more severe conditions such as pneumonia or lung infections.

Health experts associate pigeon droppings and feathers with respiratory diseases. For instance, pigeon droppings cause fibrotic lung disease, such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis or bird breeder's lung disease.

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Dove sitting on my bird poop-splattered balcony chair. Photo Credit: Jennifer Boyer/Flickr

A single pigeon can produce around 12 Kg of excreta annually. Experts indicate that pigeon excreta is acidic and can consequently damage buildings and monuments. The excreta also spreads salmonella germs.

Another condition linked to pigeon droppings is hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), also known as bird fancier’s lung. It is an allergic reaction to the antigens present in bird droppings. Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, and in chronic cases, it can lead to pulmonary fibrosis and respiratory failure.

A fungus called Cryptococcus, which can cause infections in vulnerable people if inhaled, is contained in pigeon droppings.

In January 2020, two women in Mumbai underwent lung transplants due to chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis, believed to be caused by prolonged exposure to pigeon droppings in their residential building. This case highlights the potential severity of diseases associated with pigeon droppings.

What is pigeon poop?

Small marbles resemble pigeon droppings and they have a white-brownish appearance. If you find the droppings to be loose and wet, it could indicate that the bird is stressed or unhealthy.

Pigeons, as birds, prefer to excrete nitrogenous waste in the form of uric acid instead of urea and ammonia, due to their uricotelic nature. The lack of a urinary bladder in birds means they excrete uric acid together with their feces. Pigeon droppings also promote fungi growth. The presence of ammonia in Pigeon droppings can cause respiratory problems and irritation.

Pigeon droppings carry 60 diseases

Veterinary microbiologists from Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries University (KVAFSU) stated that the numerous pathogens in bird droppings can cause as many as 60 different types of diseases.

Veterinary microbiologists are researching the spread of disease-causing pathogens from pigeon droppings and now they are conducting awareness campaigns to inform people about the ill effects of pigeon droppings on humans. Dr KM Chandrashekar, assistant professor of Veterinary Microbiology at Veterinary College (Hassan), who is leading the awareness program, stated that these birds can introduce parasites, ticks and fleas into the surrounding environment through their droppings.

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Disease-causing pathogens from pigeon droppings. Photo Credit: JohnnyH5/iStockphoto

“Wild birds usually carry more disease than companion birds. Pet birds’ immune system may be less capable of fighting these pathogens which may become airborne. Humans coming in direct contact with these droppings or inhaling the aerosols resulting from dried droppings, may contract various diseases,” Chandrashekar told BM.

Chandrashekar clarified that studies show about 60 different diseases could spread through these droppings, and added that these pathogens could affect spleen and liver once inhaled. They said the symptoms can range from minor influenza to high fever, blood abnormalities, and pneumonia."

Pigeon poop diseases

People often ask if pigeon droppings are toxic, and the short answer is yes, they can be toxic. Pigeons, like many other birds, can carry a range of diseases, and they can transmit some of these diseases to humans through their droppings.

Disease/Parasite Cause Transmission Symptoms Prevention/Precautions
Histoplasmosis Inhaling fungal spores from soil with pigeon droppings Inhalation of fungal spores Flu-like symptoms, fatigue Remove pigeon droppings, wear masks and protective clothing when cleaning contaminated areas
Candidiasis Yeast infection caused by Candida yeast, carried by pigeons Contact with contaminated surfaces/areas Thrush, skin, respiratory, urogenital issues Maintain good hygiene, treat infections promptly, avoid contact with infected areas
Cryptococcosis Fungal infection from exposure to Cryptococcus fungus carried by pigeons Inhalation or contact with infected materials Lung and nervous system issues Avoid contact with pigeons and their droppings, wear protective gear in risky environments
Psittacosis Bacterial infection from Chlamydia psittaci carried by pigeons Inhalation or contact with infected materials Respiratory symptoms, pneumonia-like illness Prevent exposure to dried bird droppings, practice good hygiene, use protective equipment
Encephalitis Viral infection from mosquitoes feeding on birds carrying the virus Mosquito bite after feeding on infected birds Neurological symptoms, fever Control mosquito populations, avoid mosquito bites, reduce bird populations if necessary
Salmonellosis Bacterial infection from Salmonella bacteria present in pigeon droppings Ingestion or inhalation of contaminated materials Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps Proper food handling, disinfecting contaminated areas, minimize exposure to pigeon droppings
E.Coli Bacterial infection from Escherichia coli, transmitted by infected pigeons Contact with contaminated materials or surfaces Diarrhea, urinary tract infections, pneumonia Practice good hygiene, avoid contact with infected pigeons, cook food thoroughly, maintain cleanliness in living spaces

Pigeons dominate bird species

Dr Arjun Khanna, Head, Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad pointed out that if you look around in the Delhi-NCR region, you will notice that pigeons have become the dominant bird species.

Khanna conveyed to FinancialExpress.com that spotting other birds like sparrows is difficult due to the exponential growth in the pigeon population, which has replaced many other birds in the ecosystem. However, he also pointed out that the proliferation of pigeons presents a significant health hazard. He explained that pigeon fur, feathers, and excreta can cause lung diseases which exacerbate airway allergies."

He added, "If pigeons inhabit your home, you must remove any nests on your balcony or terrace immediately. Installing pigeon-resistant nets, readily available in the market, would be ideal to prevent exposure to pigeons. This is critical because exposure to pigeons is linked to various lung diseases, with lung fibrosis being the most severe."

Dr. Namrata Jasoni, Senior consultant pulmonologist, explained, "Hypersensitivity pneumonitis, specifically bird fancier's lung, is the body's response to an antigen, likely microscopic and found in pigeon droppings. Mumbai doctors report a five-fold increase in such cases, leading to irreversible lung scarring. Continuous exposure to pigeon droppings causes the body to fight antigens, resulting in permanent lung tissue damage. This condition often leads to pulmonary fibrosis or interstitial lung diseases, necessitating 24/7 oxygen support, with lung replacement being the only solution in severe cases."

How To clean bird Poop safely

Cleaning up bird droppings safely requires following specific steps to reduce health risks. If hiring professionals for the task, it's essential to ensure they adhere to recommended procedures:

  1. Wear Protective Gear: Before starting cleanup, wear proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, a mask, and disposable coveralls. These items prevent direct contact with droppings and minimize the risk of inhaling harmful particles.
  2. Use Wet Cleaning: Avoid dry sweeping or vacuuming as it can release airborne particles. Instead, opt for wet cleaning by spraying water on the affected area. Dampening the droppings helps prevent them from becoming airborne.
  3. Disinfect Thoroughly: After removing droppings, disinfect the area using a commercial-grade disinfectant. Proper disinfection is crucial to eliminate any remaining bacteria or fungi.

Following these structured steps can significantly minimize health hazards associated with cleaning bird droppings.

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