Their ability to spread a range of diseases is why a select species of bird such as pigeons and gulls are regarded as pests. For businesses, this causes concern as it puts both staff and customers at risk, generating a negative impact on revenue, public opinion and staff retention.
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.
You may be wondering:
- How do birds spread disease?
- How do you catch a bird disease?
- Which bird diseases can humans catch?
- How can businesses prevent bird diseases?
How do birds spread disease?
Like most pests, there is a range of factors which contribute to how birds spread diseases. However, birds mainly transmit diseases through their:
Bird faeces, and in particular, the droppings from pigeons, gulls, starlings, and house sparrows, is the primary way birds transmit diseases. 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 can result in increased risk of exposure when bird infestations reach large numbers.
Although not as common as bird faeces, feathers can also be responsible for the spread of diseases.
A bird’s feather, particularly from those living in urban environments, can often play host to a range of parasites, bacteria and viruses. However, it is primarily the feathers of a dead bird which carry said diseases. It is important to note that the chances of catching a disease from bird feathers are very slim.
Bird nests can also be held responsible for the spread of diseases. Bird nests can be the perfect breeding site for certain species of fungi, which can spread through debris.
To add to this, bird nests can also be a great home for parasites and secondary infestations (other insects). In some cases, said insects and parasites are known vectors of specific diseases, which can result in human transmission.
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 and become 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 from biting a bird. A bite from an infected insect can lead to infection.
What diseases can birds spread to humans?
It is believed that birds can carry over 60 different diseases which have the potential to infect both humans and livestock. The main diseases which birds can transmit are Bird flu, West Nile Virus, Parrot fever, Salmonellosis, Cryptococcosis, Histoplasmosis
Bird flu (Avian Influenza)
- Caused by the influenza A strain of the influenza virus
- 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.
West Nile Virus
- Generally regarded as a mosquito-borne 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.
Parrot fever (Psittacosis)
- Zoonotic disease caused by the Chlamydophila psittaci bacterium
- Infection occurs from inhaling airborne particles found in respiratory secretions, faces, 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
- Carried in the intestines of birds
- Found worldwide in soil. When it becomes disturbed the fungus contaminates the air and transmission occur through inhaling.
- Caused by Histoplasma sp. Fungus.
- Like with Cryptococcosis, transmission occurs through inhaling air contaminated with the fungus spores. Air becomes contaminated when infected soil is disturbed.
How can businesses 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 to help reduce the risk of catching a disease from a bird.
- Remove access to nesting sites such as ledges and window sills
- Keep food sources hidden by properly storing and disposing of food
- Clean up debris such as paper, twigs and grass
- Contact a bird control professional
Remove access to nesting sites
Ledges, window sills, eaves, and holes in roofing are all fantastic locations for birds to build their nests.
You can prevent bird diseases by deterring 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 by properly storing food, ensuring all bins are fitted with a tight lid and aren’t overflowing, and using barriers to protect fresh produce reduces the appeal of your property to birds which in turn prevents the possibility of bird diseases.
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 or premises is clean, and free from debris is an effective way to deter birds, making it less attractive persuades them to find a different area to set up nest.
Professional bird control
The best way to prevent birds, and limit the potential for them 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 hawking, 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!