Do Pigeons Carry Diseases?

Pigeons in the street

Feral pigeons dominate most of our biggest towns, cities and urban areas and can not only become a nuisance regarding crowding, but they also carry a risk of transmitting and spreading diseases and viruses to humans. 

Pigeons are capable of carrying harmful diseases in the same way as the common rat, which is why it’s important to safely rid and deter pigeons from entering your commercial or domestic property if you have a pigeon problem. 

Can Pigeons Carry Diseases?

Yes, pigeons carry a number of diseases, some of which can be transmitted to humans. Unlike most other birds, pigeons nest in their own faeces, which attracts mites and increases the transmittance of other diseases. 

The different types of diseases pigeons carry have been detailed below:

  • E. coli. – this disease occurs when pigeon droppings find their way into our water or food sources, which become contaminated. When humans consume E Coli-contaminated food and water, it can result in nausea, fever and cramps. 
  • St Louis encephalitis – when mosquitoes feed on the blood of an infected bird, they carry the pathogen that’s responsible for spreading St Louis encephalitis. While this disease won’t cause too much trouble to younger people, it can be particularly dangerous to adults over 60. Symptoms of St Louis encephalitis include drowsiness, fever and headaches. 
  • Histoplasmosis – a respiratory disease that occurs when fungus grows inside pigeon droppings. If left untreated, histoplasmosis can be fatal.
  • Candidiasis – another respiratory disease that is caused by fungus infecting the droppings. This disease can affect any or a variety of areas, including the mouth, skin, respiratory system and intestines. This disease is thought to occur mainly, or at least have a greater presence, in women. 
  • Salmonella – commonly referred to as “food poisoning”, salmonella occurs when infected droppings infect food. Transmission can be subtle, as when droppings turn to dust are blown into food and water sources. 
  • Cryptococcosis – another disease caused by yeast found in the intestinal tract of pigeons and starlings. It can cause problems with the central nervous system if left untreated. 

In addition to the above, pigeons are frequently exposed to other creatures and insects that can transmit diseases. These creatures are known as ectoparasites and can carry several human pathogens. The ectoparasites can hitch a ride on the pigeons and so come in contact with people. Although that sounds concerning, only about two-thirds will cause harm to our general health, with the rest causing minor problems, such as itching and scratching.

Ectoparasites that are associated with pigeons include:

  • Bed bugs – bed bugs are one of the most nuisance pests to deal with. They are capable of costing thousands of pounds worth of damage and are notoriously difficult to get rid of. Bed bugs are able to cause anaemia in some humans. Pigeons, starlings and some other small birds are known to carry bed bugs
  • Chicken mites – capable of causing dermatitis and acariasis, both of which cause mild flaking of the skin. While it’s uncommon that chicken mites attack humans, they may do so if they come into close contact with them. This happens through contact with birds such as pigeons and house sparrows.
  • Yellow mealworms – although not found in the UK, yellow mealworms rank among the most common ectoparasites in the USA. They live inside pigeon nests and can find their way into our food.
  • West Nile virus – although not directly transmissible from birds to humans, if a human is bitten by a mosquito who has sucked the blood from an infected bird, they may get West Nile virus. Symptoms include fever, flu-like illness,  aches and pains as well as fatigue. In some cases, this can last for up to a week or several months. 

How Do Pigeons Spread Disease?

In almost all cases, pigeons transmit diseases to humans through faecal matter (dry droppings). While it’s very uncommon for us to come into direct contact with pigeon droppings and receive any disease or virus this way, droppings that have been left to dry out are where the problems begin. Dry droppings that are infected with bacteria can enter our airways when they’ve been left on windowsills, rooftops, cars and other areas we frequently come into contact with. 

Droppings eventually turn into a powder form, which becomes easier to inhale. When inhaled, the pathogens can infect and cause disease in humans. 

Are Pigeons the Most Disease-ridden Birds?

Yes, pigeons actually carry the highest number of diseases in comparison to any other bird species. Pigeons also carry more diseases than rats, with their droppings being one of the core causes of disease. They also carry bird mites, which are extremely common among all pigeons.

Do You Have a Pigeon Problem?

Pigeons are responsible for a number of potentially fatal diseases that can be transmitted to humans through poor hygiene and pest control problems. AMES Group provides fast, effective and certified bird control services to alleviate the threat of pigeon-based diseases. Contact our team today to get rid of pigeons and keep your property safe.

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