Borderers to be warned of health risks posed by pigeon droppings

Kelso councillor Euan Robson at Henderson's Court.
Kelso councillor Euan Robson at Henderson's Court.

Borderers look set to be warned about the health risks posed by pigeon droppings following two deaths caused by them in Glasgow in recent months.

That public health alert is being lined up in response to an appeal by Kelso councillor Euan Robson at today’s full meeting of Scottish Borders Council.

The former Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP is concerned about an increase in the number of pigeons living at Henderson’s Court in Kelso and believes the public need to be warned of the dangers they pose.

His concerns have been sparked by the deaths of two patients at the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in December and January, a 10-year-old boy and 73-year-old woman, after contracting a fungal infection linked to pigeon droppings.

Mr Robson asked Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison, the authority’s executive member for neighbourhoods and locality, to flag up the risks presented by avian excrement in the hope of averting any such tragedies here.

“With regard to the recent fatalities on NHS premises in Glasgow, what advice can be offered to householders, such as those at Henderson’s Court in Kelso, or to people in business premises, to help avoid adverse health impacts?” he asked.

Mr Aitchison told him: “The droppings from pigeons contain a plethora of pathogens, including cryptococcus, which was the fungal infection linked to the deaths in Glasgow.

“Part of the issue with droppings is the transmission. Once the droppings are dry, the resulting dust can carry this pathogen into the air, where there is a potential for airborne transmission.

“From a health perspective, if inhaled, this doesn’t normally affect healthy humans, but it can result in cryptococcosis in those with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, those who’ve had organ transplants or those who are being treated for cancer.

“Anyone who may be concerned about their health who has had significant contact with pigeon droppings should, of course, seek medical advice.

“Householders should avoid any direct contact with faeces and use simple hygiene precautions, such as using handwash following contact with faeces or contaminated materials, before eating or drinking.

“The removal of any faeces should be carried out by a professional.”

Mr Robson added: “Councillors Simon Mountford and Tom Weatherston and I have had a migration of pigeons to one particular building in Kelso, precisely at the time there were fatalities in Glasgow, and I think it’s important to get this health advice available.

“Is there some way we can publicise this advice?”

Mr Aitchison reassured him that the council would look to issue a warning, saying: “I’m sure that can be done. We’ll certainly look into that.”

Both deaths at the £842m Glasgow hospital, opened in 2015, are now being investigated by prosecutors and environmental health officials.