Is Bat Guano Dangerous?
By Michael Koski Posted May 27, 2019 In Informative Articles
Ask nearly anyone, and you’ll hear that bats (although beneficial in insect control) can be dangerous because they carry rabies. But a lesser known danger, and one that is not as easy to avoid, is histoplasmosis. Histoplasmosis is a disease you can get from exposure to bat guano (bat droppings).
Below is a quick list of common questions we get about histoplasmosis.
What is Histoplasmosis?
It is an infectious disease caught by inhaling the spores of the histoplasma capsulatum fungus. While it is not contagious between two people, the disease can affect a wide variety of the population who may not even be aware they are at risk.
Should I be concerned about getting histoplasmosis?
Anyone can get histoplasmosis. There are, however, certain people whose occupations make the risk of exposure greater than others. Included in that group are chimney cleaners, construction workers, gardeners, HVAC installers or repair people, roofers, and, of course spelunkers (cave explorers). In reality, however, anyone who comes across the fungus can get histoplasmosis especially those with a weakened immune system.
But I’ve never touched or been bitten by a bat. So how could I get it?
It’s easier than you might think. Bats become infected with histoplasmosis, and their feces contain the histoplasma capsulatum fungus. This fungus grows in the soil where the droppings land or in the droppings themselves found in an attic occupied by bats. The fungus then continues to grow, just waiting for you or me to come along to clean out the old barn, the attic, or other places where the spores now lie.
Or sometimes, we disturb the dirt (cleaning up the garden, sweeping out the empty building, or doing other seemingly harmless dirty work), causing the spores to become airborne. When we breathe that air, we then become infected with histoplasmosis and the real trouble begins.
I don’t do that kind of work. Ishouldn’thave to worry about that, right?
You still need to worry about it. In fact, in 1970, several hundred middle school students developed histoplasmosis, simply because they breathed the spores through their school ventilation system over the few days following a “clean up” of the school’s courtyard as an Earth Day project. Even those children who were not present at the clean up were exposed to the spores over the next few days and came down with histoplasmosis.
And there are cases where people have been exposed when working in a city near construction sites where soil containing the histoplasma capsulatum spores were disturbed when the site was excavated. The spores became airborne, and the office workers then breathed the spores through their office ventilation system. Anyone can get histoplasmosis.
How do I know if I have it?
The disease first affects the lungs, and often those with the disease have no or very mild symptoms within the first few days. On an average, around 10 days after exposure, many sufferers complain of flu-like symptoms: fever, chest pain, loss of appetite, dry cough, headache, shortness of breath, impaired vision, and possibly joint and muscle pains. Because of the vague symptoms, you may have been exposed to the disease and not know it.
In many cases, the disease may run its course, and you will think you’ve simply had a case of the flu. Some cases, however, are more serious, leading to long-term illness, often resembling tuberculosis in nature. And some cases, if not treated, are fatal.
If you have a weakened immune system (are undergoing chemotherapy, have AIDS, etc.) or are a heavy smoker, you may be more susceptible to getting histoplasmosis. And ifyou’vehad it in the past, you are subject to a re-infection or reactivation of the disease after another exposure. This is especially true for the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and the very young.
If it’s so hard to recognize, how is it diagnosed?
If you suspect you may have been exposed, you should immediately contact your health professional, telling them you may have been exposed, and ask if they recommend tissue or blood tests. The more accurate tests (tissue samples) take a long time for results to show; the quicker tests often show false positives. Thus, it is imperative that you quickly seek medical attention if you think you have been exposed.
If I have it, then what?
Although mild cases may disappear on their own, you should contact your health professional to make sure you are not one of those who should be taking anti-fungal medicines. Sometimes the disease is spread throughout the blood system (called disseminated histoplasmosis), and if that is the case, medicine is necessary.
How can I keep from getting it?
When you are cleaning an old attic or building, avoid areas that may harbor the fungus, especially if there are accumulations of bird or bat droppings.
Spray a mist of water over contaminated sites if you have to work there. This will help to keep down the dust (and thus the spores).
If you must work around a contaminated area, wear disposable clothing and specially designed face masks that can filter particulate matter of 1 milli-micron in diameter.
Keep bats and birds from nesting in areas in buildings such as barns, and in your house attic or eaves.
Note that you may have to have your home or building cleared of bats and/or bird roosts before cleanup can begin. If that is the case, it is best to have a company specializing in bat control do this. They will know the proper ways to control the spores and have appropriate clothing and equipment to minimize the risk of getting or spreading the disease.
I have scattered droppings in my attic. Is it safe to vacuum them up?
Scattered bat droppings (guano) do not pose a risk and can be safely swept up or vacuumed. Of course – the dust often found in attics may be an irritant, and you might be wise to wear a dust mask – there is very little risk of Histoplasmosis. It is when the guano starts to accumulate and pile up that the fungus can grow and develop spores.
When bat control professionals clean up these droppings, they use industrial vacuums with special high-efficiency filters, thus reducing the risk to the worker. Even then, the experts don protective clothing and air masks to avoid breathing the spores.
I have a pile of bat droppings in the corner of my attic that is eight inches deep. Is it okay to be in the house?
Generally, there is no problem if the droppings are not disturbed or if the air vents do not pull up air from that area. However, you should have an expert determine your risk factors in this case.
I had bats living in my wall. Now I have a smell. Is it safe to breathe the air?
While breathing the air may not be pleasant, you should not have problems associated with histoplasmosis. However, be aware that bats may carry bat mites, fleas, and other insects, and they are likely to find a way into your living area. Also, if a bat is trapped, it may die, and the smell of the decomposing bat, as well as the guano, may be very unpleasant. It is best to have the bats removed as quickly as possible.[/vc_column_text]
Still Have Histoplasmosis Questions?
We’re available to answer any questions you may have about bats and how you may be exposed to histoplasmosis. Call us anytime at 877-264-2287 (if our customer service isn’t available our after hours crew will take a message for you) or click the link below and we’ll call you.
Histoplasmosis is a much more serious threat from bats than many people realize. We take it very seriously and we hope you will too.
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Scattered bat droppings (guano) do not pose a risk and can be safely swept up or vacuumed. Of course ‐ the dust often found in attics may be an irritant, and you might be wise to wear a dust mask – but, there is very little risk of histoplasmosis.How do you remove bat guano safely? ›
Dampen droppings with a water sprayer. Use a low-pressure stream of water. Clean up the droppings using soapy water and a mop or cloth. Disinfect affected surfaces with a bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water).How long is bat feces dangerous? ›
On an average, around 10 days after exposure, many sufferers complain of flu-like symptoms: fever, chest pain, loss of appetite, dry cough, headache, shortness of breath, impaired vision, and possibly joint and muscle pains.What respirator is needed for bat guano removal? ›
working around bird or bat droppings. Appropriate respirators could range from an N95 filtering facepiece for low-risk tasks to a full facepiece air-purifying respirator or powered air-purifying respirator for high-risk tasks.Does all bat guano have histoplasmosis? ›
The incidence of histoplasmosis being transmitted from bat droppings to humans is not thought to be high. Nevertheless, fresh bat droppings (unlike fresh bird dropping) can contain the histoplasmosis fungus. Bat droppings do not need to come into contact with soil to be a source of the disease.Is it safe to clean up bat droppings? ›
When these microscopic spores from the dried bat guano are inhaled by humans, it can cause a serious respiratory disease called histoplasmosis. Disturbing the dirt (cleaning up the garden, sweeping out the empty building, or doing other seemingly harmless dirty work), may cause histoplasma spores to become airborne.How long does bat guano take to break down? ›
As it's a natural source of phosphorus and rich in organic matter, soil microbes must first break down this substance to make phosphorus molecules available to plant roots. After adding bat guano fertiliser to your soil, it takes around two weeks for bacteria and fungi to do their thing and strip it down.Can you get rabies from touching bat guano? ›
People cannot get rabies just from seeing a bat outside or at a distance. In addition, people cannot get rabies from having contact with bat guano (feces), blood, or urine, or from touching a bat on its fur. Remember, just to be safe, bats should never be handled.What happens if you are exposed to bat poop? ›
Histoplasmosis is caused by a fungus that lives in soil, particularly where there's a large amount of bird or bat poop. People can get histoplasmosis by breathing in fungal spores, and infection can be mild or life-threatening.What eats bat droppings? ›
Seals and birds.
As the source of guano is so varied, the nutrients in guano vary too. Sea birds eat small fish; seagulls also scavenge.
Homeowners insurance does not cover bat removal or any other type of wild animal or pest infestation. So if you have a colony of bats in your attic, you'll have to pay to remove them yourself. A standard policy also won't cover the cost of physical property damage caused by birds, vermin, rodents, or insects.Does bat guano smell go away? ›
As such, it has a musty, ammonia-type smell, and the larger the colony, the more pervasive and onerous the smell becomes. Once recognized, this unique “scent” is impossible to mistake, but the good news is that after the bats have been excluded, the smell begins to dissipate right away.What PPE is needed for bat guano? ›
During removal of an accumulation of bat guano from an enclosed area, dust control measures should be used in combination with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). PPE should include long sleeves, long pants, gloves, face shield or goggles, and an N-95 respirator to reduce the risk of inhaling fungal spores.What states have histoplasmosis? ›
In the United States, Histoplasma mainly lives in soil in the central and eastern states, particularly areas around the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys,1 but it can likely live in other parts of the country as well.Who is most likely to get histoplasmosis? ›
- People who have weakened immune systems, for example, people who: Have HIV/AIDS. 1–2 Have had an organ transplant. 2–3 Are taking medications such as corticosteroids or TNF-inhibitors. 2,4
- Infants 5
- Adults aged 55 and older 6
How soon do the symptoms of histoplasmosis appear? Symptoms of histoplasmosis may appear between 3 and 17 days after a person breathes in the fungal spores.Do you need to clean after bat in house? ›
Once the bats have been excluded from the roost area, it should be thoroughly cleaned. Bat droppings can create a strong odor. This odor may also attract new bats if openings develop in the structure.How do I clean my house after a bat? ›
Remove and dispose of any urine-soaked insulation. Scrub and disinfect surfaces that came in contact with guano. For compacted piles, spray them with an enzyme cleaner before touching, then put in a plastic bag. Check your local regulations about whether it's permitted to place bat droppings into regular trash.How to tell the difference between bat feces bat droppings and mouse droppings? ›
Bat droppings are usually rougher in appearance than mouse droppings. As UK bats feed on insects, their droppings consist of insect exoskeletons and contain very little moisture. This makes them easy to crumble, unlike mouse droppings which, when fresh, will appear moist and soft.What does dried bat guano look like? ›
What does Bat Guano, or Bat Poop, Look Like? Bat droppings, known as guano, are small and dark in coloration. The elongated pellets are crumbly and turn to dust when touched. Often used as fertilizer because of its high nitrogen and phosphorus content, guano can be dangerous when allowed to accumulate in the home.
High Nitrogen Bat Guano is one of the highest natural nitrogen sources we've found. Potent, fast acting and water soluble, High N Bat Guano is so powerful it should be used carefully and sparingly.What does fresh bat guano look like? ›
Known as guano, bat droppings are typically small, around the size of a seed, half an inch long, and 1-3 cm thick. They are dark in color, almost black, and have no white on the end of it, unlike other animal feces. Bat droppings may be found in your walls and attic, along floorboards, or on the roof.Do I need a rabies shot if a bat was in my house? ›
For example, if you wake up with a bat in your room, you may have been exposed to rabies and should see your doctor or call your health department, even if you don't feel a bite. Healthcare providers will conduct a risk assessment to determine if you need rabies vaccination.How likely is it to get rabies from a bat? ›
Bats can have rabies, but it is extremely rare for that to impact humans. The chance of getting rabies from a bat is very small — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are one or two cases a year in the U.S. But bats are the most common source of human rabies in the United States.What percentage of bats carry rabies? ›
Most bats do not have rabies. For example, even among bats submitted for rabies testing in the U.S. (these only included bats capable of being captured), only about 6 percent had rabies. There is no way to determine if a bat has rabies by simply looking at it. Rabies can only be confirmed in a laboratory.What happens if you touch guano? ›
Guano is extremely unsafe if inhaled, ingested, or handled. One of the most significant health concerns is that it can cause a terrible illness that harms the breathing system called histoplasmosis. The guano can also carry other diseases and bacteria, so great care needs to be taken in its removal.
In most cases, histoplasmosis causes mild flu-like symptoms that appear between 3 and 17 days after exposure to the fungus. These symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, cough and chest discomfort. In these milder forms, most symptoms go away on their own in a few weeks.Is There A Cure For histoplasmosis? ›
Is there a cure for histoplasmosis? Yes, antifungal medications can often cure histoplasmosis in people with a healthy immune system. Your provider may treat you with these medications: Itraconazole.What smells do bats hate? ›
Essential Oil Spray – Mint, eucalyptus, cinnamon, cloves, and peppermint essential oils are all touted as ways to repel bats with their strong smell. Others say to mix 2 cups of warm water with a few drops of essential oil and a half cup of sugar.What kills bats fast? ›
One of the other options you have is bat poison spray. Bat poison spray, or bat fumigation, occurs when an exterminator sprays a pesticide into the infested area. The poison will kill the bats immediately. Once the poison has worked, the exterminator will enter the area to remove the dead bats.
Most bat fatalities are caused by bats colliding with rotating blades of wind turbines. Fatalities are highest during autumn migration and on nights with low wind speeds. Some bats may be attracted to wind turbines, increasing risk of impacts to bat populations.Why is bat removal so expensive? ›
Size of the Colony
The number of the bats present is the most significant factor in bat removal costs. If you hear a lot of squeaking sounds, it could mean that you are dealing with an entire colony. Costs can vary from just a few hundred dollars to upwards of $8,000.
As guano breaks down, it releases harmful pathogens into the air. These spores can cause histoplasmosis if inhaled. Histoplasmosis is a respiratory infection that affects the lungs. Its symptoms vary widely, but can include: a mild cough and headache, difficulty breathing, fever, chest pain or blurred vision.Is guano a biohazard? ›
Other than structural damage, the accumulation of bat guano can create biohazard that may put individual's health at risk within your structure.How do you know if there are bats in your walls? ›
Signs That Bats May Be In Your Home Include:
Noises in walls: This may be a sign of mice or rats, but mice and rats are usually quiet if you thump on a wall. Give your wall a thump. If you hear a reaction from the other side, it is likely that you have bats. Night chirping noises: Bats make chirping noises.
If you go up into your attic and can smell a pungent ammonia type of odour, you probably have a bat infestation. Bat droppings and urine can create a terribly strong odour that you don't want to breath in and pretty much should avoid.What smells do bats like? ›
Wild dates and figs are among their favorite foods but they also enjoy plant nectar. These bats have the pleasant aroma of warm fruit jam. These hamster-sized bats eat fragrant fruits like figs, various leaves, flowers, pollen, nectar and even nuts in the wild.Is potting soil with bat guano safe? ›
According to Beck, bat guano can be safely used as a fertilizer, both indoors and outdoors, and will benefit vegetables, herbs, flowers, all ornamentals, and fruit and nut trees. Its primary ingredients are roughly 10% nitrogen, 3% phosphorous, and 1% potassium.Can you top dress with bat guano? ›
Bat guano , otherwise known as bat manure, serves as an excellent top dressing for cannabis. This nutrient-rich excrement contains vital macronutrients that plants need to develop luscious fan leaves and resinous flowers. Outdoors, simply apply 500g of guano to every 2–5m².What can I use instead of bat guano? ›
We prefer worm castings over bat guano because of their nutrient value and because they are one of the cheapest manures to get. In addition, worm castings are readily available at local and online shops, and they are easy to use on-site.
- Find all outside entrances, but do not simply seal up all openings at night. ...
- Install one-way bat check valves (see below) on all entrances you find. ...
- Leave check valves in place for at least five to seven days.
- Check carefully to be sure there are no bats left.
Bat urine. The main concern with bat urine does not relate to human health but the fact it contains high concentrations of uric acid which can corrode metal. Bat urine also causes etching of polished surfaces and staining of light-coloured fabric and porous stone such as marble and alabaster.