Effective infection control is the focus of a recent world wide news story as pigeon droppings have been linked to multiple hospital infections and deaths in Scotland. Regardless of where it occurred this case highlights the importance of facility wide infection control and education for facilities managers everywhere.
Pigeon droppings have recently been linked to multiple infections and deaths.
The infection in this case is Cryptococcus, which is an airborne infection that is not rare and usually not harmful even to those exposed to it. It can be harmful though to those with compromised immune systems where it can cause meningitis and even death. What are the best practices for facilities managers to prevent these incidents?
It appears that the pigeons gained entry to the hospital through a mechanical room on the top floor not open to the public but maintained by staff. Staff education can play a critical role in infection control when employees and occupants are made aware of proper hygiene and reporting requirements. Based on the investigation by government officials, it appears that the cleaning and facilities staffs had not been advised of infection control strategies.
A simple and effective step for managers and infection control personnel is to always remediate any animal infestations in the facility immediately. Animal droppings can spread disease and have health impacts for anyone who is contacted by infected air. If an infestation has begun wildlife management professionals should remove any live animals. Afterwards the entire area needs to be thoroughly disinfected by professionals to avoid transmission of any animal borne illness. Once these steps have been taken preventative measures should be taken to keep future infestations out.
Once compromised, ventilation systems need to be checked and certified as clean by bio hazard remediation experts. In this particular case removing the pigeons would not be enough if the pigeon droppings were still present in the air handlers and pumping Cryptococcus throughout the building. HVAC inspections should be regularly performed to check not only for pigeon droppings and animal waste but also for other potentially harmful items such as mold and mildew.
Pigeons and other common animals may be seen as just annoyances but any animal waste or infestation should be treated seriously. Unfortunately in this case a breakdown of proper infection control contributed to serious illness and deaths. To prevent the spread of infectious disease make sure to practice proper facility hygiene and preparedness.
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Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. (IRS) is a premier provider of disaster recovery mitigation, environmental remediation, biohazard emergency response and HVAC inspection and cleaning in the New Jersey-Philadelphia-New York City area. IRS is certified by NADCA and have Certified Air Systems Cleaning Technicians and a Certified Ventilation System Inspector on staff.
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