Washington State University
Environmental Health & Safety Factsheet – Bird and Bat Waste

Bird and Bat Waste:

Hazards and Cleanup Procedures


What are the hazards?

There are several diseases associated with bird and bat* droppings, including cryptococcosis and histoplasmosis (fungi) and psittacosis (bacteria).

The cryptococcosis and histoplasmosis fungi occur naturally in soil, and therefore usually develop in bird droppings associated with soil. The psittacosis bacteria are found only in bird droppings and secretions and are not associated with bats or soil.

*In areas where bats are present, rabies exposure is also a concern. Contact Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) before entering areas with bats.

Cryptococcosis is most common in individuals with compromised immune systems, and the symptoms include meningitis, severe headache, mental disturbances, fever, blurred vision, and cough. Although the majority of individuals who acquire histoplasmosis have no symptoms, when symptoms do occur, they vary widely depending on the form of the disease. The acute disease is characterized by respiratory symptoms, general malaise, fever, chest pains, and a dry, non-productive cough. The chronic form for the disease resembles pulmonary tuberculosis and progresses over months or years.

Symptoms of psittacosis may include a low-grade fever that often becomes worse as the disease progresses, anorexia, sore throat, light sensitivity, and a severe headache.

How does exposure occur?

The simple act of clean-up can cause many contaminates to become airborne. Exposure to these diseases occurs when the spores are inhaled. Therefore, individuals who work in or cleanup areas heavily contaminated with droppings may become exposed when the material is disturbed or dust is created.

Although these diseases are rare, they can occur, especially in the young, elderly, and immunocompromised individuals. However, they do not pose a significant health risk to WSU employees PROVIDED the following precautions are used.

Cleanup and Control Responsibilities

The department utilizing and controlling an area is responsible for all required cleanup and bird/bat control measures. Maintenance personnel who need to enter an area where a large amount of droppings are present are not required to perform cleanup or control in such situations unless they utilize the area. The department assigned the space is responsible for cleanup and control measures prior to maintenance personnel entering the area.

Getting Assistance

Departments and maintenance personnel not desiring to perform cleanup or control measures themselves may make arrangements with the University’s cleanup contractor (this contract also covers rodent infestation cleanup). See the Safety Policies and Procedures Manual (SPPM) S6.30 for more information Individual departments are responsible for paying for all contractor inspections, pest control, and cleanup charges related to work conducted in their areas. Contact EH&S or Purchasing for the name and telephone number of the current contractors.

Precautions to Prevent Exposure

Proper disinfection of a site is extremely important to kill all disease agents so they no longer pose a danger. Precautions should always be taken when droppings are encountered. Never sweep, vacuum, or disturb droppings, and if possible, avoid these areas entirely. Only wet cleaning methods are recommended when cleaning contaminated areas.

If there are a small amount of droppings in a localized area:

  • Wear non-latex type rubber gloves.
  • Mix a disinfectant solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water.
  • Using a spray bottle or a clean pesticide application sprayer, thoroughly soak the droppings with the disinfectant solution.
  • After the droppings are thoroughly wet, clean them up with a mop, sponge, or rag that also has been soaked in the disinfectant solution.
  • Place the contaminated material in a plastic bag and seal. Place this sealed bag into a second plastic bag, seal, and dispose of in the regular trash.
  • Disinfect or throw away the gloves that were used.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.

If there are a large amount of droppings in a large area:

  • Prior to entering the contaminated area, don a NIOSH-approved respirator** with HEPA filter cartridges, non-latex rubber gloves, eye protection, disposable coveralls and shoe coverings or washable clothing with rubber boots.
  • Follow steps 2 through 6 above.
  • Dispose of one-time use PPC and clean and disinfect the respirator and rubber boots according to established procedures.

**Fit testing and training is required prior to respirator use. Contact EH&S to schedule fit testing and training.
For areas with large amounts of droppings, please contact your campus EH&S office so that the area can be inspected and proper cleanup and bird/bat control procedures can be recommended.

Ongoing Bird and Bat Control

Birds often roost in protected areas, such as entryways where their droppings become an unsightly problem. If a colony of bats or a flock of birds is allowed to live in a building, their droppings will accumulate and create a health risk for anyone who enters the roosting area and disturbs the material. However, their numbers can be reduced by blocking their access to indoor roosts and breeding places.

Therefore, after cleanup of droppings, the birds or bats in the area should be excluded. This can be accomplished by screening or plugging their entryways in enclosed areas, or if roosting in open areas, with the use of “porcupine” wire (made up of sharp, metal prongs attached to the roosting area) or other acceptable devices. Avoid any measures that might unnecessarily harm or kill birds or bats.