Pigeons, starlings and sparrows may look rather small and harmless, yet they harbour diseases that are potentially deadly to humans.
It is an important reason why pest birds need to be controlled, especially by businesses and property landlords who have a duty of care to employees, tenants and visiting members of the public.
Businesses need to be concerned because those stomach bugs and headaches that staff take time off for may not be caused by something dodgy they have bought from the local takeaway. It could be the result of bird droppings splattered on walls and floors of the workplace.
The number of diseases and parasites just the lowly pigeons can carry and cause run into the dozens, so here are just X of the more important ones that building owners and facilities managers need to be aware of.
Pigeons, starlings and sparrows can also carry the potentially deadly salmonella bacterium. All varieties of salmonella can cause food poisoning, which is why food outlets and manufacturers are strongly advised to guard against pest birds getting into their premises. While salmonella poisoning is not usually fatal, it can kill people weakened by illness, plus serious and painful stomach upsets.
This is a bacterium commonly carried by pigeons and other birds. It is very closely linked with food poisoning. If bird droppings are on hands during food preparation, or get onto food in restaurants or office canteens before it is served, it can cause intestinal illnesses in humans that can be very serious, and on rare occasions, fatal.
Campylobacter jejuni bacteria
A bug that is commonly found in bird faeces and is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis. Government figures indicate that it is responsible for more than 280,000 cases of food poisoning each year, and 100 deaths. Most of these will be caused by poor food hygiene in the home or in restaurants.
This is another bacterium harboured by pest birds. It can cause a potentially deadly infection called listeriosis. Most infections in healthy adults cause only mild symptoms. However, it can cause fatal illnesses such as meningitis and septicaemia in elderly people, and those with weak immune systems, such cancer patients. Unborn children can suffer a particularly deadly condition as a result of listeria poisoning, called meningoencephalitis, which has a 50% death rate.
This is a fungal infection picked up from dried bird droppings, though inhalation of the faeces in the form of dust. It is found in the intestinal tracts of common British birds, like pigeons and starlings, but is also found in soil. Cryptococcosis is not likely to be contracted by healthy humans, but can be a risk for people with suppressed immune systems. It can result in lung infections, and in most serious cases can attack the central nervous system.
This is also a disease commonly associated with pigeons, starlings, seagulls and house sparrows, though it also grows in soil. Again, for healthy people, this illness is not a serious concern. However, people with weakened immune systems, such as elderly people and cancer patients, can experience a ‘flu-like illness, lung infections and trouble with breathing.
The message is clear – pest birds harbour diseases that can cause illness in humans. Healthy people may not notice they have been infected, or might only have mild symptoms. But the many people already weakened by illness or old age are at greater threat, and infections can cause fatalities.
This makes it important for many businesses to have adequate protections in place against pest birds. SUPERPROOF delivers the UK’s most effective and modern bird proofing and bird deterrent services.