Pigeon populations can grow rapidly, especially in urban environments. Pigeons are known to carry almost 60 pathogens that cause human disease. However, transmission is extremely low. There are only three diseases that are normally linked to pigeons, and the risk of contracting these three pigeon diseases is extremely low. It should be noted that people with compromised immune systems are advised to maintain a safe distance from pigeons and pigeon droppings. These people include cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy, people with HIV, and people with other autoimmune diseases.
The three pigeon diseases that can be contracted are histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, and psittacosis. Histoplasmosis and cryptococcosis are fungi that grow in pigeon droppings. As droppings dry out, these fungi become airborne and can enter people’s lungs. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, and chest pains. However, most people do not experience any symptoms at all. Psittacosis is a bacterial infection that can develop into pneumonia. No known cases of person-to-person transmission of these pigeon diseases have been recorded.
The proper removal of pigeon droppings can lower the risk of contracting these pigeon diseases. Wear a facemask and disposable gloves while cleaning up pigeon droppings. People with compromised immune systems should not approach pigeon droppings. Several products are on the market that can be installed on buildings to discourage the roosting of pigeons. These typically involve small pigeon spikes and other pigeon deterrents that prevent pigeons from landing on the eaves and roofs of buildings.