Friday, May 5, 2017

Can I catch Histoplasmosis from chickens?

Today I want to talk about an illness that you can get from keeping chickens, but you've probably never heard of it. It's called histoplasmosis and you can get it from breathing in the spores of a fungus (Histoplasma capsulatum ) found in bird or bat droppings. Yes it's all birds, not just chickens. However since keeping chickens entails things like cleaning the coop which stirs up chicken poop and bedding dust, you have a higher chance of catching histoplasmosis from your chickens then from random wild birds. 

histoplasmosis in chickens

Now before anybody panics, most people who contract histoplasmosis from chickens will have no or very few symptoms. In fact, many people that do contract histoplasmosis will think they have a mild cold or the flu. Only about 10% of the people that contract​ histoplasmosis will develop serious eye or lung problems.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Several types of histoplasmosis exist. The mildest form produces no signs or symptoms, but severe infections can be life-threatening. When signs and symptoms do occur, they usually appear three to 17 days after exposure and may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Dry cough
  • Chest discomfort
In some people, histoplasmosis can also produce joint pain and a rash. People who have an underlying lung disease, such as emphysema, may develop a chronic form of histoplasmosis. 
Please see this link to the Mayo clinic for complete information on histoplasmosis.

Prevention of histoplasmosis:

In order to avoid contracting histoplasmosis when cleaning your chicken coop, you should always wear a mask that filters the air you breathe.

It helps if you wet down the bedding a bit before removing it which cuts down on the dust.

Change your clothing after cleaning the coop. 

Taking a steamy shower after being exposed to a dusty chicken coop can help to clear the respiratory system. 

Always wash your hands after handling things in your chicken coop that have been on the ground, like waterers and feeders. 

The good news is that histoplasmosis is not contagious. That means that if you contract it you will not pass it to anyone else. To get histoplasmosis they would have to come into contact with the Histoplasma capsulatum spores themselves, just like you did. They cannot catch it from you. (this is also why you changed out of your dusty clothes after cleaning the coop!) It's also quite curious that chickens cannot contract histoplasmosis but dogs and cats can if they come in direct contact with the spores. University of Florida IFAS extension  
If you think you may have contracted histoplasmosis you can see your doctor for a test. In many cases no treatment is needed.
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It's interesting to note that wild birds can spread histoplasmosis to your garden soil and it can be contracted through digging in the soil. It's also present in bat droppings so it can also be contracted by cave exploring where there are heavy bat populations (or dusty bat infested attics).  

I personally do not know if I have contracted histoplasmosis or not. I have spent a lot of time cleaning coops and I often forget my mask so anything is possible. From now on I will be wearing my mask when cleaning the coop...and I think you should too!


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I am not a veterinarian or other animal care professional nor do I claim to be. I am simply passing on information that has worked for me and my flock. This information is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Please see a vet if your chicken is ill. Click for my full disclaimer

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  1. Stopping by from the cape coop blog hop today. Very interesting post! My mom has histoplasmosis. She has no central vision in her left eye. She did not contract it from chickens, but from produce from a garden affecting by it. She lived in the Philippines at the time. Now that we have chickens, I try to be careful about this but often times forget my mask as well!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. It's not uncommon to catch it from gardens, and apparently there's an area on the US that's considered high risk because of the wild birds. I am always guilty about forgetting to wear garden gloves! Hopefully the Dr's have your moms health under control!

      Have a great day!