Birds come in many varieties and are often a pleasing sight to bird owners, bird watchers, and poultry farmers. Still, birds can harbor many unexpected dangers you may not be aware of. When you spend time near flocks of birds in the areas surrounding your home or you're responsible for cleaning up bird droppings at work, you're in danger of contracting a potentially serious illness called histoplasmosis.
Many people aren't aware that histoplasmosis exists and may have the illness without knowing it. But if serious symptoms occur, you could end up with a dangerous infection or long-term health issues. Learning about histoplasmosis and the risks of being exposed can help you understand how to minimize your risk.
What Is Histoplasmosis?
Histoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by a fungus found in bird or bat droppings. Humans are usually exposed to the disease by breathing in spores of the fungus while cleaning or removing dried bird droppings from an area. While the disease is spread by many species of birds, birds never contract the disease because they have a high body temperature. Histoplasmosis symptoms vary widely in humans and can be difficult to detect. Often, people can have histoplasmosis with no symptoms at all. However, when symptoms exist, they can accelerate quickly and affect various parts of the body.
Most commonly, histoplasmosis affects the lungs. When the tiny spores are breathed into the lungs, your lungs attempt to neutralize the spores. The spores that avoid the defense cause an infection. When the infection exists, symptoms range from being so mild they can only be detected by lab tests to acute and chronic symptoms that can last a lifetime.
Symptoms of Histoplasmosis
Sometimes, a person who contracts histoplasmosis displays no symptoms at all, and the illness passes without incident. When symptoms do occur, they typically develop within three to 17 days after exposure. Early symptoms of histoplasmosis can mimic the flu and are often difficult to diagnose. These are the symptoms that commonly occur with histoplasmosis:
- • Fever
- • Cough
- • Exhaustion
- • Enlargement of the liver and spleen
- • Weakness in acute cases
- • Chest pain in acute cases
Chronic symptoms include:
- • Fever
- • Anemia
- • Hepatitis
- • Pneumonia
- • Meningitis
- • Inflammation of the lining of the heart cavity
- • Ulcers of the tongue, mouth, nose, and throat
- • Chronic pulmonary symptoms that resemble tuberculosis
Chronic symptoms usually occur in people with weakened immune systems or individuals already suffering from illnesses of the lungs like COPD. This high-risk group includes persons with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or cancer. It also includes people receiving cancer chemotherapy, high-dose, long-term steroid therapy, or other immunosuppressive drugs. Small children under the age of two and adults over the age of 55 also have a higher risk of symptomatic infection.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you develop flu-like symptoms after exposure to bird droppings, then you should visit your doctor to be tested for histoplasmosis. Depending on the severity of your symptoms and your potential risk factors, your doctor may want to test lung secretions, blood, urine, biopsied lung tissue, or even bone marrow. Mild cases of histoplasmosis often require no treatment. However, severe histoplasmosis in the lungs, chronic histoplasmosis, and infections that have spread from the lungs to other parts of the body require anti-fungal medication.
Histoplasmosis Dangers for Homeowners
A variety of birds can carry Histoplasma capsulatum, which means birds on your residential property could put you and your family members at risk. Certain actions in the areas surrounding your home could also put you at risk. Some of the most common actions that can expose you to Histoplasma capsulatum are things that homeowners do routinely, including:
- • Gardening
- • Cleaning or tearing down old buildings
- • Cleaning chicken coops or pigeon roosts
- • Repairing the roof or other areas where birds have been roosting
How Bird Control Can Help Eliminate Histoplasmosis Risks in Residential Areas
While it's okay to have birds around your property, and you certainly don't want to give your chickens away, there are ways to control where birds roost and leave dropping that can harm you and your family.
Large flocks of birds that use your home and surrounding buildings, ledges, decks, and porches for a nesting spot can leave massive amounts of dropping behind for you to clean away. Certain bird control products, like visual deterrents designed to mimic predators or repellents, can scare pest birds away from your property without causing them any harm. You can use deterrents and devices that prevent birds from roosting in certain areas to manage birds, too. So use these tools to keep chickens and other types of poultry away from areas where they shouldn't roost.
Histoplasmosis Dangers in Commercial Settings
Several occupations can expose to Histoplasma capsulatum. Additionally, many types of birds use commercial buildings as a roosting spot for large flocks. Some of the most common ways employees are exposed to Histoplasma capsulatum spores include:
- • Disturbing large amounts of bird droppings while cleaning
- • Farmers or poultry workers spending large amounts of time in chicken coops or cleaning them
- • Servicing heating or air conditioning systems
- • Construction or tree clearing operations
- • Exposure to bird droppings while cleaning storefronts, parking lots, parking structures, or ledges and window sills
As a business owner, it's your responsibility to maintain your business in a way that promotes good health. However, it can be difficult to remove birds from a large commercial property alone. Professional bird control can minimize the exposure risks of histoplasmosis and other diseases spread by birds to keep you, your employees, and customers safe. Commercial bird control may include a variety of products, such as deterrents, bird spikes, bird netting, and bird slides, to cover all the spots that birds love to roost.
To learn more about the dangers of histoplasmosis and the ways professional bird control can help, get in touch with the experts from Bird Barrier. Learning about the diseases found in bird droppings and how these diseases spread to humans can help you learn how to avoid the risks and provide the proper control methods to keep your home and workplace safe.
About Bird Barrier
Bird Barrier is a leader in innovative technology designed to prevent birds from landing, roosting or nesting. We specialize in urban bird control to remove birds humanely and effectively. Our website, birdbarrier.com, hosts a wealth of content to help people understand and identify bird control solutions for various problems with pest birds. Please contact us if you need help with a bird related problem. You may also benefit from our free guide, Bird Deterrents: The Complete Guide.