Birds Carry Disease

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Editor:

In response to a letter from L. A. Jones on July 26.

“Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it” is a quote attributed to George Santayana, in “Reason in Common Sense.”

A quick search on the Internet netted these cat and bird facts.

Cats were often considered in league with the devil, and cats were killed en masse in the middle of the 14th century during the time of the Black Death. Had this bias toward cats not existed, local rodent populations could have been kept down, lessening the spread of plague-infected fleas from host to host. After five years 25 million people were dead — a third of Europe’s population.

Unfortunately, there’s more than just bird flu to be worried about.

There are over 60 other diseases that birds and their droppings can carry. The problem is especially worrisome in residential areas, as many of them are airborne and can be transferred to humans just by being around droppings.

• Histoplasmosis is a respiratory disease that may be fatal. It results from a fungus growing in dried bird droppings.

• Candidiasis is a yeast or fungus infection spread by pigeons. The disease affects the skin, the mouth, the respiratory system, the intestines and the urogenital tract, especially the vagina. It is a growing problem for women, causing itching, pain and discharge.

• Cryptococcosis is caused by yeast found in the intestinal tract of pigeons and starlings. The illness often begins as a pulmonary disease and may later affect the central nervous system. Since attics, cupolas, ledges, schools, offices, warehouses, mills, barns, park buildings, signs, etc. are typical roosting and nesting sites, the fungus is apt to be found in these areas.

• St. Louis Encephalitis, an inflammation of the nervous system, usually causes drowsiness, headache and fever. It may even result in paralysis, coma or death. St. Louis encephalitis occurs in all age groups, but is especially fatal to persons over age 60. The disease is spread by mosquitoes which have fed on infected house sparrow, pigeons and house finches carrying the Group B virus responsible for St. Louis encephalitis.

• Salmonellosis often occurs as “food poisoning” and can be traced to pigeons, starlings and sparrows. The disease bacteria are found in bird droppings; dust from droppings can be sucked through ventilators and air conditioners, contaminating food and cooking surfaces in restaurants, homes and food processing plants.

• E. coli. Cattle carry E. coli 0157:H7. When birds peck on cow manure, the E. coli go right through the birds and the bird droppings can land on or in a food or water supply.

Besides being direct carriers of disease, nuisance birds are frequently associated with over 50 kinds of ectoparasites:

• Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) may consume up to five times their own weight in blood drawn from hosts, which include humans and some domestic animals. In any extreme condition, victims may become weak and anemic. Pigeons, starlings and house sparrows are known to carry bed bugs.

• Chicken mites (Dermanyssus gallinae) are known carriers of encephalitis and may also cause fowl mite dermatitis and acariasis. While they subsist on blood drawn from a variety of birds, they may also attack humans. They have been found on pigeons, starlings and house sparrows.

• Yellow mealworms (Tenebrio molitor), live in pigeon nests perhaps the most common beetle parasites of people in the United States. It is found in grain or grain products, often winding up in breakfast cereals, and may cause intestinal anthariasis and hymenolespiasis.

• West Nile Virus while West Nile is technically not transmitted to humans from birds, humans can get infected by the bite of a mosquito that has bitten an infected bird.

The bubonic plague is alive and well in Arizona.

J. E. Lauderbaugh

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