Bat Droppings and Histoplasmosis

04.04.2006 - Do bat droppings carry the fungus that causes the lung disease histoplasmosis? They certainly can, but it's not as common as some bat removal companies might have their customers think. While it's often better to err on the side of caution when it comes to biohazards and human health, it's also important not to get carried away. Look at the before and after photo here. This is considered a very minor case of bat droppings - from a small colony of bats over a short period of time. This accumulation is very unlikely to harbor any fungal growth. The best conditions for promoting growth of fungus on bat or bird droppings include heavy accumulations of droppings resting over a long period of time. In the above case, we've got a small amount of fresh stuff, and aside from the odor, possible staining, attractant to roaches and other insects (and possibly bats, though I'm not sure this last theory has been proven well) it's probably not a serious biohazard.

What is histoplasmosis? It is a respiratory disease, or infection of the lungs, whose symptoms vary from the usual flu-like symptoms to more serious effects if the disease becomes systemic. This latter form of the disease, acute or disseminated histoplasmosis, can spread from the lungs to other organs. This is a life-threatening conditon, but it is rare, and only persons with weakened immune systems are susceptible as far as I know. Histo is caused by Histoplasma capsulatum, a fungus. The fungus produces spores that, when airborne, a person can inhale. Spores are hardy forms of the fungus that can live in the attic for a long time. The fungus grows well in nitrogen-rich environments such as accumulations of bat guano and bird droppings. This is one of the reasons it's usually a good idea to remove bat droppings from an attic and decontaminate the area. Here is my list of good reasons to remove bat droppings:
  • The droppings carry an offensive odor - as expected, the more the droppings, the worse the odor.
  • The droppings can seep through ceiling/walls and cause stains.
  • The droppings, if in large enough accumulation, can become heavy enough to collapse a ceiling (I've seen this twice).
  • The droppings tend to attract the vermin that tend to like poop - I've seen hundreds of cockroaches crawling on guano.
  • The droppings may attract other bats to the area - this theory seems to hold true for many animals.
  • The droppings may grow the Histoplasma capsulatum fungus, which can cause respiratory infections.
  • Vampire bats will, on occasion, rise from deep within a pile of guano to break free and feast on the blood of the innocent.
  • Exposure to too many attics with bat droppings can cause a wildlife trapper to become delusional.

Do it yourself: Visit my How To Get Rid of Bats page for tips and advice.
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