Psittacosis is an infectious flu-like disease which spreads to humans from infected birds like pigeons. It is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia psittaci.

Though psittacosis appears to be mild in nature, it causes illness and pneumonia or lung infection.

Bird Fancier’s Lung or bird breeder’s lung is a type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis which is caused due to the antigens present in bird droppings.

In this infection, the patient experiences flu-like symptoms like shortness of breath or dyspnea and cough. In many cases, the patient also experiences weight loss, anorexia and extreme weight loss.

When the disease worsens it reduces the lungs’ efficiency over time and leads to pulmonary fibrosis. This can eventually lead to respiratory failure.

In January 2020, two women from Mumbai, aged 38 and 68, underwent lung transplant due to a serious health condition called chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis which is also called as environment related lung fibrosis.

News reports have said that pulmonologist Unmil Shah and others whom the patients visited over the years found pigeon droppings in the common duct area of their building. One of the patients said her breathing problems started after she moved to her new home.

Pigeon droppings carry over 60 diseases research studies have found.

Pigeon droppings cause respiratory diseases like Histoplasmosis, fungal infection Candidiasis, pulmonary disease called Cryptococcosis which affects the central nervous system at a later stage, St. Louis Encephalitis an inflammation of the nervous system, Salmonellosis or food poisoning, and infections caused by E.Coli present in the bird droppings.

Bird droppings also cause Newcastle disease, a highly contagious disease of birds caused by a paramyxovirus.

Pigeons of the metro cities are well fed. From appeasing celestial bodies to just for fun, metro dwellers love feeding pigeons. This is also the best way to keep the interaction with nature going for those who stay in small congested areas in big cities.

Feeding birds during dawn and dusk is an integral part of metro life.

While maintaining the bare minimum connection with nature is essential and should not be cut down completely, an additional responsibility of discarding the animal wastes is what people need to accept right now.

Those who have got COPD or have asthma allergic problems can develop severe reactions upon exposure to pigeon droppings and their lung conditions can deteriorate, says Dr Rai.

“To stay safe, avoid feeding pigeons so that their population density remains under control. Avoid going to highly risky places where pigeon droppings are. At an individual level, people can keep nets to minimize exposure to pigeon droppings. Those who use ACs should be careful as pigeons tend to remain near it; those areas need to be clear of pigeon droppings,” suggests Dr Rai.

Use a mask to clean pigeon droppings on balconies and windows, he adds.

Since pigeon droppings are known to carry over 60 diseases research studies it is extremely important to keep the surroundings clean, particularly if you have been feeding them for a long time, explains Dr. S.P Rai, Consultant, pulmonary medicine and sleep medicine at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai.

Do not let the droppings accumulate. Use water and a disinfectant to clean the area which is frequented by the avians, he adds.


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