Pigeon droppings harbour a fungus that could lead to hardening of lung tissues in humans and controlling the infection in the birds will help in reducing the incidence of lung diseases in Mumbai, said doctors at a conference in the city to discuss on zoonotic diseases or infections that can be passed between animals and humans.
Doctors stated that the increase in the number of people with interstitial lung disease, or stiffening of the organ, in the city can be linked to the nesting of pigeons.
“We had a hospital employee who after retirement developed difficulty in breathing. As she had a family history of asthma, we first suspected that,” said Dr Amita Athavle, head and professor, chest medicine, KEM Hospital, Parel.
“She was treated and once she went home her symptoms reappeared. She told us that her landlord feeds pigeons, which was actually the cause for her medical condition.” Dr Athavle prescribed the patient to change her residence. “She shifted to Vashi and her symptoms disappeared. To prevent such cases, we need to find a solution to treat the pigeons so that they don’t spread the disease to humans,” said Athavle.
Experts said that several countries to reduce the transmission of such lung conditions owing to pigeons’ advocate fertility control pills to reduce their population. “As pigeons have a 45-day memory, we ask our patients to spread something bitter around their nesting place to stop them from coming,” said Dr Athavle , adding that people with compromised immunity are the worst affected. Doctors said that elderly, people who have undergone a transplant, children and those with compromised lungs can easily develop the condition.
Dr Pratit Samdani, physician, Breach Candy Hospital, said that in several patients’ exposure to pigeon dropping is the cause for developing pneumonia. “Some patient even land up on ventilator support because of pneumonia which is caused by the exposure to such droppings,” said Dr Samdani.
According to Dr Om Shrivastav, infectious disease consultant who was speaking at the conference, adult vaccination is the way forward.
“Childhood vaccination will not necessarily give you prolonged lifelong immunity. Vaccination against influenza is a must,” said Dr Shrivastav.