Pigeons are very common animals in any city, but they can be a danger to human he alth, since they can transmit several diseases, known as zoonoses, such as cryptococcosis or salmonellosis, for example.
However, transmission of this type of disease occurs mainly through poop and, therefore, although it is not necessary to eliminate pigeons, care must be taken to avoid direct contact with the feces. In addition, it is important for cities to properly clean the feces, since, when they dry, they can turn to dust and end up being inhaled by people and the infectious agent responsible for the disease can be fixed to the lungs, causing complications.
The main diseases transmitted by pigeons are:
Cryptococcosis is one of the main diseases transmitted by urban pigeons and is caused by a fungus that lives and grows in feces, Cryptococcus neoformans. When spores of this fungus are inhaled, there is initial involvement of the lung and as the fungus develops, it can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream, reaching the nervous system and resulting in meningitis, which is a serious complication of the disease. cryptococcosis.
Cryptococcus neoformans is considered an opportunistic fungus, that is, the development of the disease occurs when the immune system is compromised, mainly because of HIV infection. Thus, depending on the person's immune system, the disease may or may not develop and the severity of symptoms may vary.
Main symptoms: Symptoms of cryptococcosis vary according to the degree of compromise of the person's immune system, however the most common are feeling short of breath, constant sneezing, runny nose, weakness and pain throughout the body. Know how to recognize the symptoms of cryptococcosis.
What to do: It is recommended that the person go to the emergency room to have the diagnosis confirmed, since the symptoms are similar to many other diseases, including the flu, and, thus, the treatment is started, which is done with the use of antifungals such as Amphotericin B or Fluconazole for 6 to 10 weeks according to medical advice.
Although salmonellosis is more common after eating poorly washed or poorly prepared food, transmission of Salmonella bacteria can also occur due to pigeon poop. This is because when faeces dry and turn to dust, they can be transported by the wind and become trapped in fruits and vegetables that, if not washed well, can contaminate people.
Main symptoms: Symptoms of salmonellosis are usually gastrointestinal, and there may be nausea and vomiting for more than 24 hours, severe diarrhea, low-grade fever and constant stomach pain.
What to do: Most of the time the symptoms improve after 3 days, being only recommended to rest at home, have light meals and drink plenty of water. However, if symptoms do not improve, a doctor should be consulted for antibiotic treatment and administration of saline directly from the vein to prevent dehydration.
3. Viral encephalitis
Pigeons are one of the most important reservoirs for viruses such as West Nile virus or São Luís encephalitis. These diseases can infect the nervous system and cause different symptoms, including loss of consciousness and risk of death. This type of encephalitis is transmitted by mosquitoes, which after biting pigeons, can bite humans and pass the virus.
Main symptoms: Symptoms vary according to the virus and severity, however frequent symptoms are severe headache, high fever and seizures, for example.
What to do: It is recommended to go to the emergency room immediately to make the diagnosis and start the appropriate treatment, which usually includes the use of antipyretics such as Paracetamol and anticonvulsants, like carbamazepine. Learn more about encephalitis and its treatment.
4. Escherichia coli infection
Escherichia coli, also called E. coli, is a bacterium that lives in the human intestine, but is also present in large quantities in pigeon feces. To avoid this type of infection, it is important to wash your hands after being in an environment with pigeons, such as parks, for example.
Main symptoms: Like salmonellosis, the symptoms of E. coli infection are intestinal, and there may be abdominal pain, excessive tiredness, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Learn how to identify the signs of E. coli infection.
What to do: In many cases, Escherichia coli infection can be treated at home with rest, drinking water, and eating bland foods. However, if symptoms are very intense, if they get worse, or if they appear in children or the elderly, it is important to go to the emergency room to start using drugs that improve symptoms while the body fights the infection.