Pigeons are found in many communities across the United States. While pigeons tend to be more of a nuisance for most people than anything else, you do need to bear in mind that pigeons can carry disease. Indeed, pigeon droppings can harbor diseases that can provide serious in some situations. An example of an infection that can be conveyed by pigeons is histoplasmosis. In fact, histoplasmosis is transmitted in some instances to unsuspecting people via pigeon droppings, specifically dried pigeon feces.
What Is Histoplasmosis?
Histoplasmosis is an infection that results from breathing in spores of a type of fungus that can be found in pigeon droppings. In most instances, histoplasmosis occurs as a result of spores contained in dried pigeon droppings becoming airborne. These spores contained in pigeon feces many times become airborne when an attempt is made to clean up these droppings. Soil can also become contaminated by pigeon droppings that contain the fungi spores that have the potential for causing histoplasmosis.
In the U.S.A., histoplasmosis more frequently occurs in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys. With that noted, histoplasmosis can be and is contracted in other areas in the United States, including in California.
A majority of people who do contract histoplasmosis never develop any symptoms whatsoever. These individuals are completely unaware that they are infected with histoplasmosis.
The same cannot be said for all individuals, however. There are situations when histoplasmosis can cause a person to become seriously or even fatally ill. Cases in which people become particularly ill from histoplasmosis typically involve individuals with compromised immune systems and infants.
If a person is going to experience symptoms of histoplasmosis, they typically appear between three to 17 days after exposure to the fungi spores. Common symptoms of histoplasmosis include:
- Muscle aches
- Dry cough
- Chest discomfort
Severe or chronic histoplasmosis tends to mimic the symptoms associated with tuberculosis. These include weight loss and coughing up blood.
If histoplasmosis does become severe, it typically is called disseminated histoplasmosis. A severe case of histoplasmosis can affect a person in a number of different ways. Histoplasmosis can impact a person’s:
- Central nervous system
- Adrenal glands
If histoplasmosis is left untreated, or if it is mistaken for some other condition and is improperly treated, it usually is fatal.
Treatment for Histoplasmosis
If you have a mild form of histoplasmosis, treatment is not likely to be necessary. If you are diagnosed with a more severe case of histoplasmosis, you likely will need to undergo a course of treatment that includes taking anti-fungal medications in pill form. If a case of histoplasmosis is particularly virulent, you may need to take intravenous anti-fungal medications to treat the infection.
If you’ve been exposed to pigeon droppings, or droppings from another type of bird as well as from bats, and begin to feel flu-like symptoms, you should waste no time seeking medical assistance. Early intervention in regard to histoplasmosis is nearly always effective at staving off a more severe case of histoplasmosis.
How to Avoid Histoplasmosis
There are some primary practices or strategies that you need to consider and employ as a means of avoiding histoplasmosis. These are:
- Avoid exposure: A key to ensuring you do not contract histoplasmosis is avoiding exposure in the first instance. You can accomplish this by forgoing raising birds like pigeons and participating in cave exploration.
- Spray contaminated surfaces: If you are going to work in the soil or in an area that might harbor pigeon droppings, thoroughly spray the area with water. This prevents histoplasmosis fungi from becoming airborne. The same practice holds true if you intend to clean up pigeon droppings. You need to soak them with water to ensure that they do not crumble and cause dust to become airborne, exposing you to histoplasmosis.
- Wear appropriate protective gear: If you are going to clean up pigeon droppings, make certain you wear appropriate personal protective equipment. This includes a face mask or respirator, gloves, goggles, and some sort of covering to go over your clothing.
Safely Cleaning Up Pigeon Droppings
Following safety protocols is vital when cleaning up pigeon droppings. In addition, the pigeon dropping cleanup process must be thorough. As was noted, the process begins by donning proper protective gear. In addition, before an effort is made to physical remove pigeon droppings, you must make certain that the feces are completely dampened to ensure that they do not crumble, causing the waste and histoplasmosis-causing fungi spores to become airborne.
Failing to follow safety protocols or to thoroughly clean an area contaminated by pigeon droppings will have dire consequences, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA.
Depending on the extent of a pigeon dropping problem, you may want to consider seriously engaging the services of a skilled experienced pigeon dripping cleanup specialist. A professional is in the best position to ensure that pigeon dropping cleanup is undertaken in a proper and safe manner.