Airport Systems Commercial Systems Industrial Systems Golf Course Systems

HEALTH HAZARDS CAUSED BY BIRDS AND BIRD DROPPINGS

Histoplasmosis
Salmonella
Encephalitis/St. Louis Encephalitis
Blastomycosis
Paratyphoid
Viral Meningitis
Listeriosis
Toxoplasmosis
AIDS related cases
Other Diseases


___________________________________________________________________

Histoplasmosis: 


A fungal infection very common to flocks of wild birds and bats. It is spread through humans by inhalation of its spores, which are found in bird droppings. The primary result of histoplasmosis is an acute respiratory illness.

Those infected with histoplasmosis will experience a wide range of symptoms including fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, rashes, and joint pain or stiffness. With such common symptoms, histoplasmosis is a hard diagnosis to make. If left untreated, it can lead to severe ocular (loss of vision) and respiratory (chronic bronchitis/pneumonia like symptoms) ailments. Although fatality is not common, treatment of histoplasmosis will not cure it. Treatment will merely reduce its effects and curb it's bodily damage, and must be administered for the remainder of the patient's life.

There are only two means of prevention. First, avoid travel to the area where the spore is found, which is a near impossible venture. Second, avoid bird or bat droppings in those areas.
back to top
Salmonella: 


Although most of society is quite educated on Salmonella in their food supply (eggs and poultry); salmonella can also be contracted from direct contact with bird's fluids. Salmonella can be passed directly from birds to humans through the exchange of almost any bodily fluid (including oils present on birds' skin and feathers).

Salmonella very rarely leads to anything more than 4 to 7 days of fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea (oftentimes bloody), and is curable without treatment. However there have been cases of fatalities linked to the bacteria. Prevention is as simple as keeping clear of physical contact and proper washing when contact occurs.
back to top
Encephalitis/St. Louis Encephalitis: 


Both varieties of Encephalitis are common to flocks of wild birds; however, St Louis Encephalitis is more commonly transmitted to humans. The virus is kept alive through a bird-mosquito cycle, and is not commonly fatal to birds. With the recent migration of a variety of wild flocks to the United States, St. Louis Encephalitis poses a much greater threat than in years past.

The primary vector of human transmission is through mosquito bites, and its subsequent prevention is to avoid these same bites (especially in areas of higher bird density). Although the government (in the form of County Health Departments) attempts to track and exterminate these mosquito populations, they can not be fully successful (particularly in and around areas of stagnant water). To date, infections to humans have occurred too infrequently to create a vaccination, but treatment methods have been able to cure the disease.

The real scare of St Louis Encephalitis is its tendency to appear in outbreaks. Over the last decade, Florida (the country's leader in Encephalitis cases) only reports a few isolated incidents a year. But in the fall of 1993 an epidemic occurred. 223 cases of St. Louis Encephalitis occurred, leading to 11 fatalities. These same outbreaks have also been recorded in 1959-62, 1964, 1977, 1979-80, and in 1990; combined carrying a mortality rate of 10%.
back to top
Blastomycosis: 


A fungal infection that infests bird dropping and is acquired by human through inhalation. Its primary effect is inflamed lesions to the lungs and skin, and subsequently disseminates into the bones, liver, spleen, and central nervous system. Blastomycosis is often found in conjunction with bronchogenic carcinoma, histoplasmosis, severe pulmonary disease, or tuberculosis. 

Although there is no cure, treatment has been found to prevent relapse. There is only one means of prevention, avoid all areas of accumulated droppings.
back to top
Paratyphoid: 


Paratyphoid (or more commonly Paratyphoid Fever) has been linked to bacteria commonly found in birds. And like Salmonella, it is transmittable through a variety of methods of contact (rarely physical contact). Most commonly, it is transmitted in areas where birds and human share stagnant water supply. Although it is most common to poor countries with improper sewerage systems, a birdbath is an adequate supply of water to pass the contaminant. Paratyphoid leads to infection of the lymphoid tissue and severe fever. Complications of delayed treatment include intestinal hemorrhage and perforation.

Like many of the above-mentioned diseases, Paratyphoid frequently occurs in outbreaks or epidemics, and is communicable between humans. In the past, Paratyphoid has been treated with antibiotics. However, new strands have shown little response to such treatment and require extensive hospital care.

There is no vaccination available for Paratyphoid. Prevention occurs by avoiding area of both stagnant water and heavy bird population. As a secondary means of prevention, proper personal hygiene is a must.
back to top
Viral Meningitis:

 
Meningitis is a viral infection of the Central Nervous System (the meninges - a thin tissue covering the brain and spinal cord) and is characterized by severe headache, stiffness of the neck or back, fever, and nausea. Meningitis cases number from 500 to 700 cases a year, with a small percentage of these cases representing the mosquito-borne variety. Mosquito-borne Meningitis is passed to humans by mosquitoes that are carriers of the virus (mosquitoes which infest areas near large flocks of birds).

Mosquito-borne Meningitis is not communicable between humans, and therefore is only and isolated threat. In fact, most people exposed to meningitis will experience mild or no symptoms. All this considered, meningitis is not directly treatable or curable, and the risk of fatality (however small) is always present. The only means of prevention is avoidance.
back to top

Listeriosis:
 


A bacterial infection spread to humans from birds by the same means as Salmonella or Paratyphoid. Its most common means of contagion is through foods grown in contaminated soil or water. Its symptoms are fever, muscle aches, and nausea or diarrhea. The real hazard of Listeriosis is that it is 20 times more likely to infect pregnant women than all other adults, and its subsequent effect are far more sever to the infant. In fact, the infant mortality rate among pregnant women with Listeriosis is over 20 %.

With prompt treatment (usually antibiotics) risk of death can be greatly reduced, even to newborn. But even with prompt treatment, nearly one-quarter of Listeriosis cases will result in death. Prevention of Listeriosis is similar to that of Salmonella or Paratyphoid. Avoidance and proper personal hygiene is paramount.

back to top
Toxoplasmosis:

 
A parasitic infection common to birds throughout North America. It can be spread by eating raw meat or drinking milk of the infected animal, or through their droppings. It is very possible for household pets to acquire the parasite (through eating the raw meat), and subsequently pass it on to the entire household (through changing a litter box). Humans through contact with bird droppings can directly acquire the disease.

There is no cure for the Toxoplasmosis parasite, however, treatment and a healthy immune system can keep its symptoms at bay. Complications to Toxoplasmosis if left untreated are permanent disability (blindness or learning deficiency in children) and spread of the disease throughout the body. Often the latter case leads to death. The only means of prevention is to observe proper personal hygiene after contact with contaminated water, soil, or droppings.
back to top
AIDS related cases: 


As with most disease, AIDS patients are at higher risk of contamination. But with many of these diseases, AIDS patients are not receptive to simple treatment. In such cases, treatment of the bird related disease will occur for the rest of the patient's life, or if left untreated will lead to an early death.
back to top
Other Diseases Carried by and Transmitted from Birds: 


Bacterial 
Vibrosis 
Pasteurellosis 
Fungal 
Candidiasis 
Sarcoporidiosis 
Viral 
Newcastle Disease 
Protozoan 
Trichomoniasis 
American Trypansomiasis


* All materials in the following document were cited from 
magazine publications and/or Internet sites provided by:

 

The Centers for Disease Control 
University of Texas Medical Research Center 
Florida Statewide Public Health Network 
Seattle-King County Health Department 
Ohio State University Research Department 
Purdue University Biochemistry Research Department
back to top