Please use a mask in attics

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**Canadian woman battling crippling disease caused by pigeon poop **


**FREDERICTON— The Canadian Press **

Published Sunday, Apr. 24, 2011 6:36PM EDT

** In the span of a few weeks, Erica Richards has been transformed from a vibrant 23-year-old woman who loved nature to a person battling for her life.**

In early January, the Fredericton woman contracted a potentially fatal condition called cryptococcal meningitis, a fungal disease carried in the feces of pigeons.
The debilitating illness attacks the spine and brain, causing severe swelling. It left her confined to a hospital bed in a state of delirium for weeks.
But the most devastating side effect is that Ms. Richards is now blind.
“Be aware of this disease. It could kill a child in a heartbeat,” Ms. Richards said in an interview from her hospital bed.
“It could kill a senior in a heartbeat without you even having to worry about the symptoms. It comes on that fast. If you don’t realize the symptoms, it could kill you, too.”
Her emotional warning comes on the heels of city council’s approval earlier this month of a recommendation that it toughen its animal control bylaw to allow for fines for feeding pigeons. Once the amendment is drafted and declared law, it will give the city’s bylaw enforcement officers the power to ticket and fine offenders.
Ms. Richards said she decided to go public about her illness after learning about a recent newspaper story about a problem with pigeon poop in the city.
“Please don’t feed the pigeons,” she said. “Try to shoo them away if you see them. … It (the disease) is horrible. The pain that you get from this disease is crippling.
“The after-effects are with you for life and you just can’t stop thinking about it. I just want other people to know and try to stay away from pigeons.”
Oddly enough, Ms. Richards said she has no recollection of ever being anywhere near pigeons.
“I am still wondering to this day where I got it,” she said. “I could have stepped in it and brought it into the home. I just don’t know.”
Ms. Richards said the symptoms started with a migraine headache that wouldn’t go away. She was admitted to hospital on Feb. 10 after many days of intense head pain. Shortly after, she went into a coma-like state.
“When I woke up I thought I had a mask over my eyes, but I was wrong. I was blind. I was recently told that I will be blind for the rest of my life. This is a tough thing for a 23-year-old to go through. … My world crumbled around me.”
Ms. Richards said the odds of surviving the disease are 50-50.
“However, I managed to make it through,” she said, battling tears. “I don’t know how but I am still here, and I am glad because I get to warn everyone else of this.”
Cristin Muecke, the Health Department’s regional medical officer, confirmed the disease is often associated with pigeon droppings. She said the illness can’t be spread person to person and is more common with someone who has immune problems.
Ms. Richards, however, said she has never had a problem with her immune system and that’s what’s so puzzling about contracting the affliction.
“I do not want anyone else to suffer this agonizing disease and I ask anyone who is feeding pigeons to stop,” she said. “It’s not just a matter of keeping your neighbourhood clean … it’s a matter of keeping people healthy.”

© 2011 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Good article, Roy.
A similar thing happened to a well-known inspector in Ontario, Rob Parker. He wound up in a coma fighting for his life a couple years ago due to exposure to something nasty in an attic.

It’s good to be reminded by these articles that we can’t take anything for granted. This can be a very dangerous occupation.

Bill Mullen

Good article Roy
Bill is right spent 2 months in hospital in 2009 in coma for six weeks and almost die 3 times they tell me, I do not remember a thing from the 28 June until 6 Aug. They never really found out what I had or what caused it. The health dept went back and did test of the homes I last inspected before becoming sick but still no real answers.
I always wear a mask now no matter how new the home and so should everyone ells. I do not want to go through that again. After leaving the Hospital in mid Aug it still took better than 4 months before I was really back to work, had to learn to walk,write again as the muscles in my legs and arms where very weak from lack of use. Home inspections are not as safe has everyone things they are and caution needs to be taken at every turn, we had a Home Inspector fall off a roof or ladder not that long ago and broke a hip and I have heard of others like the fellow who owns the Amerispec Office here who fell off a ladder and now has steel plates in his leg and now has trouble with stairs and ladders.
Be carefull out there

In about 2003 I was at a home Inspectors meeting in Toronto and Charters Kenny told about a Hommie who was in the hospital for many months .
Char insisted I get a mask immediately .
Next inspection I wore the mask Bat dung all over the attic some places 18 inches .
( thank you Charters)
I have worn a mask ever since .
Thanks for the upgrade Rob glad you came out OK .
Some others have not been so lucky .