I love birds. Well, sort of. I love birds out in the wild, soaring over the highveld or at the beach. I don’t love birds quite so much when they are sitting on the ledge of my window at work. “Why?” you may ask? Well, it’s because I know the answer to the question above: “do birds spread disease?” The answer is a definitive YES which means that I’m less enamoured of them when they are in close proximity to me. Not all birds, specifically pest birds.
Their ability of birds to spread disease is precisely why certain species of bird – such as pigeons and gulls – are regarded as pests. For businesses, a bird problem can put both staff and customers at risk of illness. This can be particularly problematic for businesses operating within the food industry, as a bird infestation – along with the diseases they spread – can conflict with food safety standards and regulations, resulting in the contamination of food products and outbreaks of food-borne diseases. The main species of bird which are responsible for spreading diseases are pigeons, gulls, sparrows and starlings.
How do birds spread disease?
Like with most pests, there are a number of factors which contribute to answering that question. However, birds mainly transmit diseases through their faeces (droppings), feathers, and nests.
Bird faeces or droppings:
The droppings from pigeons, gulls, starlings, and house sparrows are the primary way that birds transmit disease. Bird droppings basically act like a giant sponge for pathogens and while this doesn’t prove harmful in small doses, the build-up of bird faeces over time can result in an increased risk of exposure.
Feathers – particularly feathers of birds living in urban environments – can play host to a range of parasites, bacteria and viruses. However, it is primarily the feathers of dead birds which carry diseases. It is important to note that the chance of catching a disease from bird feathers is very slim.
These can also be held responsible for the spread of diseases. Bird nests can be the perfect breeding site for certain species of fungi. To add to this, bird nests can also be a great home for parasites and secondary infestations (other insects). In some cases, these insects and parasites are known as vectors of specific diseases which can be transmitted to humans.
How do you catch a bird disease?
There are a few ways in which we can catch diseases from birds, some being more common than others. They are:
- Inhaling: when bird droppings dry out and then get disturbed, any diseases living in the faeces can become airborne.
- Eating: consuming food products contaminated with bacteria, fungi, or viruses spread by birds.
- Drinking: similar to eating, drinking contaminated water and other drink products can lead to infection.
- Touching: dead birds can play host to a range of harmful bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
- Insect bites: biting insects can become infected with a disease after biting a bird, and then go on to infect humans.
Bird diseases humans can catch:
It is believed that birds can carry over 60 different diseases which have the potential to infect both humans and livestock. The most common diseases which birds can transmit can be broken down into 3 categories: bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases.
Often referred to as ‘Parrot Fever’, this disease is caused by the Chlamydophila psittaci bacterium.
Infection occurs from inhaling airborne particles found in respiratory secretions, faeces, and feathers of infected birds.
Caused by Salmonella sp. Bacterium. Infection occurs from consuming food and drink contaminated with infected bird faeces.
Caused by the systemic pathogenic yeasts Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii, which are carried in the intestines of birds. This fungus is found worldwide in soil. When it becomes disturbed the fungus contaminates the air and transmission occur through inhaling.
Caused by the Histoplasma sp. Fungus. Like with Cryptococcosis, transmission occurs through inhaling air contaminated with the fungus spores. Air becomes contaminated when infected soil is disturbed.
1. Avian Influenza:
Commonly known as bird flu, this disease is caused by the influenza A strain of the influenza virus. It rarely infects humans but can spread from person to person. Human infections have been a result of direct contact with infected birds and exposure to contaminated environments. There have been rare cases of infection occurring through consuming food contaminated with raw contaminated poultry blood.
2. West Nile Virus:
Generally regarded as a mosquito-borne disease, this disease belongs to the same virus family as Dengue, and Zika. Birds are a reservoir of the disease; mosquitoes become infected through biting infected birds and transmit the disease to people when they bite them.
How can you prevent bird diseases?
The potential for birds to spread diseases is a major concern for both home and business owners. Fortunately, there are a couple of prevention techniques available should you see signs of birds, to help reduce the risk of catching a disease from a bird.
- Remove access to nesting sites: Ledges, window sills, eaves, and holes in roofing are all fantastic locations for birds to build their nests.
- Deter birds from your property or premises: This can be done by repairing any damages, adding barriers to window ledges and other deterrents to ledges and eaves.
- Keep food sources hidden: Birds, and in particular pigeons and gulls, are brilliant opportunists and scavengers when it comes to food, especially in an urban environment. Keeping food sources hidden reduce the appeal of your property to birds.
- Clean up debris: Birds love areas that are littered with paper, twigs, grass and plant debris. It provides them with an endless supply of materials to build their nests. Ensuring the outside of your property is clean and free from debris makes it less attractive and persuades them to find a different area to set up nest.
Professional bird control:
The best way to prevent birds and limit their potential to spread diseases is to ensure your business utilises the latest innovative pest management solutions. A bird control professional has a range of solutions available – from bird spikes and netting to bird scaring devices – which can effectively deter and prevent pest birds from infesting your business.
As the world’s leading commercial pest control provider, Rentokil has developed a range of innovative solutions, utilising the latest in pest control technology to provide your company with a pest-free environment, helping to adhere to the necessary laws and regulations.
Need help getting rid of birds? Schedule a call with the experts at Rentokil today!