Bird Hazards

Birds are associated with West Nile Virus and Histoplasmosis, and may present a potential hazard for employees, students and visitors.

West Nile Virus

The West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne infection that can cause flu-like symptoms and in rare cases can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in humans. West Nile Virus is fatal to some birds, especially crows and blue jays, and dead birds are often used as an indicator when the virus enters a geographic area. While the spread of West Nile Virus directly from birds to people is unlikely, direct contact with dead birds should be avoided. Please contact Physical Plant or Housing for the removal of dead birds from University property.

Facilities Maintenance personnel must use gloves or a shovel to place dead birds in doubled plastic bags. Double bagged carcasses must be placed in an outdoor garbage dumpster.

Histoplasmosis

Some species of birds roost in one location in relativity large groups. Over time, dropping and waste products may build up. Working in area contaminated with large amounts of dried bird droppings may increase the risk of acquiring Histoplasmosis. The fungus responsible for Histoplasmosis thrives in areas with large amounts of bird dropping, such as roosting and nesting site, roofs and indoor attic spaces of buildings. Disturbing dried bird droppings may create airborne dust contaminated with fungus, which if inhaled, may lead to Histoplasmosis.

The best way to reduce the risk of acquiring exposure Histoplasmosis is to avoid situations where dried bird droppings become aerosolized and subsequently inhaled. If repair work or construction will disturb large amounts of bird droppings, it is recommended that the droppings are removed prior to the start of work.  Bird droppings can be removed by carefully wetting the material to reduce the amount of dust aerosolized during the clean-up activity. Once the material is wetted, it can be collected in double, heavy-duty plastic bags for immediate disposal. An alternative method is use of an industrial vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency filter to “bag” contaminated material. Do not shovel or sweep dry or dusty bird droppings.