Upham's Corner Online

Pigeon Droppings at Madrag's in Upham's Corner

Posted: April 29, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

Pedestrians on Dudley Street in Upham's Corner are not generally "out for a stroll," but rather are walking with hurried gait to the bus stop or  the car.  Our lives don't give us pause to discover the hidden anomalies - like the pigeons who have taken residence at the clothing store, Madrag, in Upham's Corner (772 Dudley Street).

Click photo to enlargeMadrag and Pigeon

Walking quickly and looking straight ahead, you won't see the thick accumulation of pigeon droppings on the sidewalk in front of the building nor will you see the pigeons living in the rotted, hollow metal ductwork across the front of the building - not unless you happen to look up and see a bird tail hanging down from the hole in the metal above your head.

So what's the problem?  Every large city including Boston is full of pigeons.  What's a few more pigeons in Upham's Corner?

  • First and foremost is the disgraceful condition of the building - the rotting metal work that so easily serves as habitation for pigeons.    
  • Second, wherever pigeons roost, they leave behind pigeon droppings.  The accumulation on the sidewalk is worse than unsightly because pigeon droppings are associated with disease in humans. 
The two diseases most commonly associated with pigeon droppings are
  • histoplasmosis and
  • cryptococcosis. 
While these are "rare" diseases they are especially dangerous for people with compromised immune systems.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), Histoplasmosis is caused by the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum which grows in soils throughout the world.  Pigeons enter the picture because the fungus seems to grow best in soils having a high nitrogen content, especially those enriched with bird manure or bat droppings.

The organism (fungus) can also be carried on the wings, feet, and beaks of birds and infect soil under roosting sites or manure accumulations inside or outside buildings.

Once airborne, spores can be carried easily by wind currents over long distances. Such contaminated airborne dusts can cause infections not only in persons at a work site, but also in others nearby.  After an exposure, how ill a person becomes varies greatly and most likely depends on the number of spores inhaled and a person's age and susceptibility to the disease.

Not all of the state health departments report consistently on this fungus and its relationship to pigeon droppings.  New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene more directly implicates the pigeons as causative in the illness. 

"Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by a fungus, which grows in pigeon droppings. It also grows in soils and is found throughout the world."

Cryptococcosis is caused by the fungus Cryptococcus which is found in the soil.  The major species of Cryptococcus that causes illness in human is Cryptococcus neoformans, which is found worldwide.

C. neoformans spores live in bird droppings - especially pigeon droppings - and in soil contaminated with bird droppings. Humans can get cryptococcal infection by inhalation of airborne fungi which are spread from these sources.

C. neoformans typically infects immunocompromised persons. Most people in the United States who develop this infection are HIV-infected or have other conditions affecting their immune system. However, occasionally persons with no apparent immune system problems develop cryptococcosis.

Infection may cause a pneumonia-like illness, with shortness of breath, coughing and fever. Skin lesions may also occur.

Here is the scenario that leads to infection.  If people (usually immunocompromised) inhale a sufficient number of fungal spores, the spores will settle in the lungs and cause disease. 

How do the spores get into the air if the pigeon droppings are on the street?  Easy.  In dry weather the guano dries out and if anyone should walk on it, the guano pulverizes into dust.  The wind picks it up, carrying the spores with it.

We who live, work and shop in Upham's Corner must take stock of unacceptable conditions and call for change. 

Link Illinois Department of Public Health - "Health hazards associated with bird and bat droppings"
Link
NJ Dept of Health and Senior Services - "Control of Health Hazards Associated with Bird and Bat Droppings"
Link
Iowa Department of Public Health - "Histoplasma Fact Sheet"
Link
Centers for Disease Control - "Cryptococcus - General Information"
Link
Centers for Disease Control - "Histoplasmosis: Protecting Workers at Risk - Revised Edition"

Madrag Pigeon Droppings
Front of Madrag - Pigeon visible to the left
Madrag Pigeon Droppings
Pigeon on top of the nesting area
Madrag Pigeon Droppings Madrag Pigeon Droppings
Madrag Pigeon Droppings Madrag Pigeon Droppings
Madrag Pigeon Droppings Madrag Pigeon Droppings
Madrag Pigeon Droppings Madrag Pigeon Droppings

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