Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 26 March 2023

The birds can lead to diseases in humans

Source: By Rupsa Chakraborty: The Indian Express

Recently, the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) in Maharashtra put up several posters warning people against feeding pigeons in order to spread public awareness about hypersensitive pneumonia, a lung disease which is contracted by living near pigeons.

The posters warned that a fine of Rs 500 will be levied on those found feeding pigeons. It further stated that pigeon-associated hypersensitive pneumonia is on the rise in Mumbai and Pune and people with a pre-existing lung condition are 60-65 per cent more likely to fall prey to the disease. No such posters have been put up in Mumbai so far.

The Indian Express spoke with Dr Sarthak Rastogi, Consultant, Pulmonologist at SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim, about how the pigeons can indirectly spread disease through their dropping and lead to health hazards.

What kind of diseases can pigeons spread to humans?

Pigeons may lead to various kinds of lung diseases, ranging from respiratory allergies to serious infections. The latter can lead to Pneumonia-Psittacosis, which is a bacterial infection and may result in death in 15 per cent of those affected by it if untreated.

There is also Histoplasmosis, which is a fungal infection with high mortality ratesCryptococcal infections may lead to pulmonary or meningeal infections in some people with an immunocompromised host.

How does residing near pigeons lead to disease among humans?

Being in the proximity of birds including pigeons can lead to diseases, especially if they are in the home as companion birds or in heavy numbers in the vicinity of the home with droppings and feathers accumulating nearby. The breathable antigen arising from the bird droppings and feathers goes into the lung and leads to an immunological reaction, which damages the lung.

I have encountered a few cases of Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis in people who were either pigeon breeders, had companion birds, or lived in areas where there is a heavy pigeon population. In many cases, no cause could be identified with certainty.

Globally, what does scientific research says about the health hazards caused due to pigeons?

That pigeons lead to allergies and infections is well-established and Pigeon Breeder’s Disease is a common cause of Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis.

What suggestions do you have to contain health hazards among the residents, especially the aged individuals?

These can include the installation of pigeon nets, and regularly cleaning the pigeon droppings by dampening them and removing them cautiously without aerosolising them. Additionally, one should wear masks and gloves while cleaning the droppings.