Thursday, July 2, 2009

Allergic Alveolitis

Allergic Alveolitis was first described back in 1874 in Iceland. It is known by a number of different names, a few of which are Bird Keeper's Lung, Pigeon Lung, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. It is often considered one of the more significant of the zoonotic diseases and can be acute, subacute or chronic.

Allergic alveolitis is an inflammation of the alveoli (small air pockets in the lungs) in affected individuals in response to a sensitivity to bird feathers, dust, or dried feces. Some of the symptoms:

Difficulty breathing (especially upon exertion)
Tightness of the chest
Fatigue (especially on exertion)
Weight loss
Sore Throat

With an acute (sudden) reaction, if exposure stops, then the symptoms usually resolve without treatment. The subacute/chronic form can develop over the course of 2 to 10 years. Given the nature of the symptoms, this disease can be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as a cold, the flu, or other respiratory issues.

Unfortunately, a diagnosis of allergic alveolitis is most promptly and permanently dealt with by removal of birds from the home. Even the smallest amounts of the offending antigen are likely to produce symptoms and further lung damage.

Whether birds, cats or dogs, animal lovers live with a certain amount of "animal dust". Some birds are dustier than others, but I've not met one yet that was dust free!

What are some ways we can reduce our exposure to dust and other such allergens?

1. Misting newpapers with water before removing and tossing.
2. Misting bird areas before cleaning up or wiping down with paper towels.
3. Wearing a face mask. (I admit I do not do this, but if one is prone to allergies, it very well may be a good precaution.)
4. Adding a bird-safe air filtration/purification system. Change/clean filters regularly.

As a practical matter, living with birds means there will be a certain amount of feather dust, dander and droppings. When we walk into our bird rooms and see that a layer of dust forms on table tops in a matter of a few days, we become acutely aware that dust, and other byproducts of living with companion birds, are nothing to be sneezed at. (Ok, a lousy attempt at humor - I will keep my day job!)

As mentioned above, spritzing is really important. Just standing across the room from someone changing the bird papers on a sunny day, and seeing all the dust and dander fly into the air will turn someone into an instant spritzer enthusiast!

Finally, one other very important consideration in my estimation:

What we do with those newspapers, or the paper towels we use to wipe up messes, after we throw them away.

Bacteria, fungus and mold begin to grow on those items immediately. Placing the newspapers, paper towels and other disposed items into a plastic bag that is kept closed, and/or inside a garbage hamper with a lid, will keep those dust, dander and fecal particles in place. It will not, however, keep them from growing all sorts of nasty molds and fungi. If that garbage pail remains in the room, our birds are being exposed to the nasties as well, and that presents an opportunity for a whole new set of problems (most notably, aspergillosis).

Those garbage pails need to be emptied regularly and cleaned to avoid a bird room science experiment. I empty mine at least every other day. Down to the garage - into the garbage can (nothing can go outside until garbage morning, or it is subject to inspection by the local black bear population! And they do not clean up after themselves - eww!)

Just last night the official Fort Garbage Pail was dumped, placed in the bathtub, filled with water and pinesol and soaked. It was then wiped and dried. Just a small little thing we can do to keep ourselves, and our birds, breathing a little easier! What is the saying about cleanliness being next to Godliness?!!

See you tomorrow!

1 comment:

wolfgirl1987 said...

I have worries that I will get this disease. Lots of cage cleaning and spritzing for me!

I say it's about time we hear from Barney ;)

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