Deadly disease from pigeons triggers alarm - News - The Independent

Deadly disease from pigeons triggers alarm

DOCTORS have warned of a big increase in the number of people catching infections from pigeons and other wild birds.

A warmer-than-average winter is thought to be partly responsible for a doubling in the number of cases of ornithosis since January.

The main risk is severe respiratory infections contracted from unwittingly breathing in dried and powdered bird faeces. It is feared that such infections are under-reported and under-diagnosed, and a national working group of scientists is being established to investigate the problem.

The scientists warn that infections, often carried in the birds' intestines, can kill or cause severe respiratory problems after the remotest of contacts with birds.

"We simply don't know the scale of the problem because there are no figures, and we do need to do a lot of research. There is very poor public awareness about this problem," said Dr Tim Wreghitt, consultant virologist at the Public Health Service Laboratories, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, and an international expert on chlamydia infections.

"Chlamydia psittaci is probably the most important and it causes a respiratory infection in humans which can be fatal and is often associated with neurological conditions.

"Some time ago we had a 60-year-old woman who died of an infection that she probably acquired from a dead pigeon that her cat had brought into the house.

"She probably breathed in dust from the dead faeces that were infected. A local GP was off work for four weeks after acquiring an infection from pigeons nesting outside the door of his surgery. Another man became ill after removing nests on his house prior to painting it."

Birds carry the infection in their guts and once they have it they never lose it, even though they themselves may be unaffected by it. Up to 60 per cent of some species may have the bacteria, which is usually passed on when humans unknowingly breathe in the dried and powdered faeces.

Dr Wreghitt said there had been a doubling in reported cases in the first three months of this year: "There has been a 100 per cent increase, but we don't know why, although my theory is that the warmer winter has meant that more diseased birds have survived, increasing the likelihood of contact with humans and of infection being passed on."

An increase in the numbers of wild birds in towns and cities may also be a factor. Populations of birds including pigeons and gulls have increased significantly in many urban areas over the past few years.

A team of biologists from the University of Wales, Cardiff, are planning to investigate the whole issue of infections passed from birds to humans and are setting up a working party. It would look at a variety of other diseases passed on to man by birds, including salmonella. The group's Professor Peter Haskell said: "There is a lot of concern about this area. We had a conference of specialists recently and we think it is something that needs to be looked into in depth."

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week