One of the biggest downsides to a Canada Goose presence in your neighborhood is the gross, unsightly fecal matter they leave all over walkways. In problem areas, people often have to dance around to avoid stepping in poop! While its definitely disgusting, there’s also a hidden danger tied to goose dropping: dangerous diseases and bacteria like E Coli, Salmonella, Histoplasmosis, Campylobacter, Coccidia, and Giardia.
High concentrations of birds can render beaches and parks completely unusable. This article from Detroit Free Press highlights how Canada Goose and Seagull droppings have been a big factor in E Coli beach-front closures at Lake St. Clair. The New York Post wrote an article called “America’s Greatest threat may be Canada Goose Poop”.
Canada Geese, on average, drop between 1 to 1.5 pounds of feces every day! Hosting a population of 20 birds would be the same as having someone spread 20-30 lbs of bacteria contaminated biohazard on your lawn every day. Most people aren’t aware, but these birds can present a real threat to humans and pets alike.
Harmless strains of E Coli already play an integral role in the human gut biome. However, harmful strains of the bacteria are most commonly associated with food contamination and food poisoning symptoms in their hosts, such as vomiting and diarrhea . Worse still, there are several virulent strains that cause gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections, neonatal meningitis, and Crohn’s disease. One strain (E. coli 0157:H7) is known to produce the Shiga Toxin, which is classified as a bioterrorism agent by the National Institute of Health. In Children and the elderly, the Shiga Toxin can lead to Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which can result in kidney failure and even death if not treated immediately.
E Coli is typically treated by assessing dehydration and replacing fluid and electrolytes. A course of antibiotics has been shown to shorten the course of illness and the duration of harmful E Coli bacteria in the gut and intestines. E Coli contamination is far too common and takes a heavy toll on any individual, but could prove debilitating or deadly to children and seniors.
Salmonella causes Salmonellosis, which has results in diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, usually within 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually last from between 4 to 7 days, and most people recuperate without any treatment. However, in some cases diarrhea may be severe enough to require hospitalization. In such cases, the infection could spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then move to other areas of the body. Failure to treat such an aggressive infection with antibiotics could result in death.
Though most cases of Salmonella infections resolve themselves without long term consequence, it may take months for bowel habits return to normal. A small number of patients develop reactive arthritis in their joints, which can become chronic. These people may also develop eye irritations and pain when urinating.
While less dangerous and dramatic that E Coli and Salmonella, a Campylobacter can result in diarrhea (often bloody), abdominal cramps, and fever. It is considered the most common cause of diarrhea illness in the United States. Most people recover from Campylobacteriosis within a week but some infections can have longer term consequences. It’s estimated that between 5%-20% of people with an infection develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for a limited period of time, while 1%-%5 can develop arthritis.
Unlike most of the bacteria based infections above, Histoplasmosis is caused by fungal spores. Symptoms of Histoplasmosis include: Fever, Cough, Fatigue, Chills, Headaches, Chest Pain, and Body Ache. The fungal spores are often found in bird an bat feces, and infect humans after they’ve been inhaled. Histoplasmosis symptoms show after 3-17 days of infection. Symptoms last a few weeks to a month and are generally acute. However, in people with weak immune systems, it is possible for histoplasmosis to develop into a persistent lung infection that could eventually spread into other parts of the body and the central nervous system.
Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection commonly found in pets that is caused by single celled organisms (protozoa) called coccidia. Adult dogs often aren’t affected by coccidiosis even when they carry coccidia. But in puppies and debilitated adult dogs, coccidia can cause severe, watery diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal distress, and vomiting. The most common coccidia is found only in dogs, but less common types are potentially infectious to humans.
Giardia is a microscopic parasite that causes a diarrheal illness know as giardiasis. Common symptoms include: Diarrhea, gas, abdominal cramps, nausea/vomiting, and dehydration. Other, less common symptoms include: itchy skin, hives, swelling in the eyes and joints. Symptoms can last 1 to 2 weeks, or longer. Sometimes, symptoms appear to resolve themselves, only to come back several days or weeks later. In some cases, people and animals infected with Giardia don’t show any symptoms. In children, severe giardiasis might delay physical and mental growth, slow development, and cause malnutrition.
Children are at great risk from goose droppings for two big reasons.
Seniors have a much harder time shrugging off common illnesses than their juniors. Luckily years of life experience and wisdom usually results in caution, limiting the risk of a serious infection (unlike children). However, if an infection gets a chance to take hold, the results can be devastating. A population of Canada Geese residing at a senior living community could dramatically increase this risk.
Most healthy pets have a robust immune system. However, pets (especially dogs) enjoy exploring the world through their tongues. If you’ve ever taken your dog to a park with a goose population, you’ve more than likely had to stop your dog from quickly devouring goose droppings. Dogs can easily acquire Coccidia and Giardia from this nasty habit. Dogs might also drink water contaminated by goose droppings, magnifying that risk. Always keep you dogs on a leash to prevent them from snacking on unsanitary things, and make sure you provide them with fresh water when they are thirsty.