The Effects of Canadian Geese on Human Health
While geese are enjoyable to watch and add exponentially to scenic walks, they also come with downsides. Geese are known for defecating quite often and even up to 1.5 pounds per day. Our parks and ponds are their natural habitat, of course, but when one must step carefully to avoid goose droppings, the situation may need to be addressed. Aside from the annoyance of the issue, it has been speculated that goose droppings pose a health risk to humans by exposing us to harmful pathogens. Let’s examine these myths about Canada geese and human health closer.
The Myth Explained
Though we’d all like to hear that the possible spread of pathogens from one of the most common birds in Canada is false, unfortunately, that’s not the case. It is true that there are a variety of parasites, bacteria, viruses, and even fungi present in goose droppings. These droppings oftentimes end up in recreational water sources. Water is the most common avenue in which the pathogens spread, but thankfully, it can be avoided fairly easily, as we will discuss later on. The pathogens can also be spread if a person handles the goose without gloves or proper protection, or receives a bite from the goose. As with all wildlife, there needs to be a level of respect and distance given to geese.
However, despite numerous pathogens existing within goose droppings, there are only a select few that affect humans. Though the potential remains for humans to become infected with these pathogens, the transmission of such parasites, bacteria, viruses, and fungi isn’t well-documented and thus not conclusive of geese being dangerous to public health. However, the pathogens are a factor, and therefore the risk is a possibility.
There are three particular parasites found among goose droppings which can potentially infect humans. These parasites often cause diarrhea and fatigue, typically clearing up after short-term symptoms, and occasionally treated with antibiotics.
- Coli, Listeria, and Salmonella have commonly spread bacteria from geese, along with a few others. However, unless you are directly handing goose droppings or have a compromised immune system with pneumonia or an open wound, your risk of infection is low.
Canadian geese can indeed contract the avian flu, H5N1, which can not only be spread amongst themselves, but also to humans. The bird flu is spread initially from handling sick birds, but can then be spread from human to human as with the typical flu.
The histoplasmosis fungus grows within goose droppings-enriched soil, and if the ground is raked or mowed, the spores can be stirred up and inhaled. Though not always symptomatic, this fungal infection usually affects the lungs, typically causing a cough, chest pain, possibly joint pain and red bumps on your lower legs. The more exposure to the spores, the higher your risk for infection.
Though pathogen infection from geese is a possibility, it can be avoided. To start, always take care in choosing your drinking water. Be certain it is fresh, filtered, and from a good source. Drinking pond or lake water certainly increases your risk of contracting these droppings-borne pathogens, as well as other infections.
Beyond drinking the water, however, caution should also be taken before simply swimming in a lake or pond where geese are present. Lastly, if ingesting goose meat, ensure the meat is properly cooked and the goose came from a healthy source. Eating undercooked meat can lead to infection, which is especially advised against for pregnant women.
Nature Comes with Risks
There may be the potential for infection from goose droppings, but the evidence isn’t strong enough to make a definite claim about geese being a danger to human health. Because of this, simply take caution while enjoying the wildlife. If you have any other questions about Canada geese, feel free to contact our website for more information.