Knowledge, as we've learned only too well in recent weeks, is one of the best defenses when it comes to preventing the spread of disease.
Unfortunately, some of the most serious health hazards associated with birds are among the least familiar. Many people do not understand the risks associated with common problems like accumulated bird waste.
Currently, there is a lot more information available regarding histoplasmosis than there was when a group of Delaware, Ohio junior high school students undertook an Earth Day project in 1970 that included the removal of an old bird roost in the school courtyard.
What began as a well-intentioned cleanup ended in an indoor air quality disaster when the aerosolized bird waste entered the school’s ventilation system. Nearly 400 students and teachers were sickened as a result of inhaling spores of the Histoplasma capsulatum fungus, which exists in the soil and thrives in bird waste. The fungus is the source of the disease known as Histoplasmosis, which can develop into a long-term lung infection that can be fatal in people with weakened immune systems.
Other examples of histoplasmosis outbreaks include:
College students on spring break caught histoplasmosis from air ducts at a hotel in Acapulco, New Mexico
At the University of Texas Southwestern, a campus wide histoplasmosis epidemic occurred in 1989-1996 with 600 infections linked to construction activities that sent contaminants into the ventilation system, according to a college history
"The epidemic illustrated the vulnerability of persons to infections by fungal spores in modern air conditioned buildings in urban environments and the necessity for adequate filtration of the air entering the building," according to history of the Infectious Diseases Division of UTSW.
Environmental Consultants & Bird Professionals on the Case
Today, environmental consultants and engineers specialize in identifying the source of indoor air quality issues, and deposits of bird waste, especially near any sources of indoor air intake, would draw their suspicion pretty quickly. Histoplasmosis is only one of numerous diseases spread through bird droppings.
The best practice is to prevent the accumulation of bird waste in the first place. While air filtration systems have improved, bird waste and a source of air intake is still a dangerous combination. If a colony of birds is discovered roosting in or near a building, immediate action should include sealing off entry points and making sure the heat and air-conditioning units are not impacted.
Bird deterrent strategies vary by species and location, but professional help is an important step to ensure the humane and effective removal of birds, as well the health and safety of building occupants.
Biologist-Managed Bird Deterrent Strategies
At Wild Goose Chase, we specialize in the safe, humane and effective management of bird conflicts, working with building owners, property managers and environmental consultants for a prompt and safe resolution of bird hazards.
Our strategies are developed and overseen by wildlife biologists, who design and manage species specific strategies.
To learn more about humane and effective bird-control services, contact us for a site evaluation.