HEALTH RISKS OF PIGEONS
In 1986, the Association of Pigeon Veterinarians issued a statement that concludes, "To our knowledge, the raising, keeping, and the exercising of pigeons and doves represents no more of a health hazard than the keeping of other communal or domestic pets." A spokesman for the American Pigeon Fanciers Council says this statement applies to feral pigeon flocks, too.”
Post from Dr. Pasek (Avian Vet) re: diseases & pigeons
Date: Sun Aug 8, 2004 4:21 pm
Subject: Re: [PigeonPeople] Zoonosis - Disease Transmission
Linda Pesek, an avian vet in Long Island, wrote four articles on bird
zoonosis for Winged Wisdom, an ezine that closed down last year.
Birds like chickens that are kept in massive colonies in
horrid, artificial situations are a lot more likely to be vectors. It's
just like plague that occurs in high density human cities especially when
we live without safeguards - but seldom occurred when we lived in villages
Here's some information extracted from Dr. Pesek's articles.
Dr. Pesek says: 'Symptoms [in people] are generally those of the flu -
fever, diarrhea, chills, congunctivitis, and sore throat.' When people say
psittacosis is pneumonia, it's safe to say that is extremely rare. I think
that the disease is more likely to come from poultry and psittacines -
parrots - than pigeons.
She says: 'Most human cases of salmonella are acquired by eating
contaminated food especially poultry rather than from pet birds.' And
'Antibiotics are not usually prescribed for people unless they have a
prolonged fever and are septicemic.' 'Recovery may occur in 2 - 4 days.'
However, 'Poultry and pigeons may carry salmonella yet appear healthy.
Infected birds will be lethargic, lose their appetite, have watery
droppings and may develop arthritis.' Anyway, we know salmonellosis is not
a pleasant disease. It's probably very unlikely. 'Humans carrying
salmonella can infect their pet birds.'
Allergic AlveolitisIt's from inhaling pigeon dust (the other main bird source is parakeets).
It happens mainly to people with large flocks, like breeders. It's rare.
But we should know about it in case someone is allergic or becomes
'It occurs in people who are hypersensitive to feathers, feather dust, and
fecal material -- expecially from pigeons and budgies. Signs can occur
within two years but often take as long as 10 - 20 years with continued
exposure.' Dr. Pesek indicates that, if you cough after exposure to
feathers and dander and it stops when it's been cleaned up, you may be
allergic. When it lasts, there's difficulty breathing. If it continues for
a long time and the dust isn't kept away, it could cause permanent harm.
It looks like chronic duration of allergic alveolitis produces scarring
(pneumoconiosis). Alveoli are the tiniest air spaces in lungs. Prevention
methods - ' . . . cleaning cages daily, bathing birds frequently, avoiding
overcrowding, providing good ventilation, and using an air purification
Not usually in pigeons. People get it mainly from poultry. Don't eat them.
Remember - poultry isn't pigeons - it's birds in the chicken family. What
it's like in people: 'People develop cramps, fever, diarrhea and headaches
within 2 - 5 days of exposure.'
Newcastle Disease - a kind of PMV (paramyxovirus), which we've discussed.
'The people who are at greatest risk are those who work in poultry
processing plants or those who handle diseased wild birds.'
'Conjuntivitis, chills, fever and lethargy may develop. Recovery generally
occurs within 3 weeks.' It sounds like rehabbers could catch it. We have
to find out how often this occurs - but the signs are all mild. That's
very different from what happens in pijjies. Note about trying to diagnose
PMV in pigeons: torticollis (the neck held in a twisted position) happens
in pigeons from other diseases, including bird flu, salmonellosis, and
streptococcus infection. (See http://www.chevita.com/tauben/e-erreger.
Avian TuberculosisPigeons as well as other birds get it, but 'It is believed that
immunocompetent humans are resisitant to the strains of tuberculosis found
in birds, but that immunocompromised people . . . are at increased risk.'
So this is a reason to keep checking your birds and to keep them away from
people with immune system disease, people who are undergoing a treatment
that lowers immune resistence, or people who have TB. In the same way,
keep people with TB away from birds - 'People who are infected with human
tuberculosis should not own birds, since these people may serve as a
source of infection for their pet birds.'
' . . .it is not thought that avian giardia can infect mammals.' It's also
not likely in feral or pet pigeons. 'The most frequently infected
companion birds include budgies, cockatiels, lovebirds and grey cheeked
parakeets. This may be the result of the way these birds are raised - in
very densely populated environments. Other species may also be infected.'
(If we're taking care of (keeping captive) animals, at least - maybe -
someday do it humanely and naturally - i guess it's too much to ask?)
It's not necessary to worry about this from pigeons, she says. I'll post
about this later as a follow up on what Cathryn wrote about stopping
commerce in birds. Even though we're not catching flu from pijjies, shared
flu virus varieties are a problem - so is selling birds.
But, about danger from pet pigeons, this is relevant: 'A companion bird
could serve as a source of virus exposure for humans, but it is more
likely that humans could serve as a source of virus exposure for
susceptible companion birds. If a human has clinical signs of the "flu",
he should avoid contact with his bird.'
The articles and their web addresses -
Zoonotic (Bird-Human) Diseases, Part 1: Psittacosis, Salmonellosis
Zoonotic (Bird-Human) Diseases, Part 2: Allergic Alveolitus,
Campylobacteriosis, New Castles
Zoonotic (Bird-Human) Diseases, Part 3: Avian Tuberculosis
Zoonotic (Bird-Human) Diseases, Part 4: Giardia and Avian Influenza
Winged Wisdom, the ezine, is at this site -
The zine has 'articles on the care & breeding of pet birds, pet parrots &
The table of contents is available in either time or subject order.
Dr. Pesek has a few offices. A lot of people say she's about the best. She
loves birds, including rescued pigeons. If you want to take a bird to her,
these are her hours and phone numbers.
For feral pigeons, it's best to go Friday afternoon.
Fri. Westbury 516 333 1123
Sun. - Nassau An. Emerg. Clin. 516 333 6262
2:30 - 8
Mon. - Sat. E. Islip 631 277 2266