Yes they’re messy but pest birds also present a very serious health risk.
Pigeons are often called ’rats of the sky’ due to the mess and disturbance they create and the diseases they carry. In fact, pigeons have been found to carry more than 110 pathogens. Some of these are airborne diseases, such as Chlamydia psittaci (ornithosis) and Cryptococcus neoformans, and others are food-borne diseases, such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria.
The danger of potential transfer through contact with visible droppings and seeing birds walk across surfaces may be obvious, but the more sinister dangers are the airborne diseases. The risk of picking up an airborne disease occurs when the droppings dry out. The risk increases significantly when entering areas with a bird infestation or carrying out removal and clean-up work. It is critical to minimise the risk of disease transfer by wearing suitable safety equipment; spraying droppings with water prior to clean-up to minimise aerosolization; using cleaning equipment with HEPA filters; and bagging waste.
The risks of disease transfer are very real. The British Pest Control Association (BPCA) reports that, “Research suggests that up to 49% of feral pigeons could be infected with Chlamydia psittaci.” People who become infected are diagnosed with ornithosis, with symptoms including chills, fever, sweating, severe weakness, headache, blurred vision, pneumonia, and possibly death.
But it’s not only ornithosis that should be cause for concern. According to the BPCA, “In 2019, two patients died in a Glasgow hospital who had contracted a cryptococcal fungal infection, which was subsequently linked to pigeon droppings.”
Bird infestations are not only annoying, they present a very real health hazard.