Bird Fancier’s Lung is a disease that affects mostly pigeon breeders but also can be linked to chickens, turkeys, parakeets, feather duvets, moldy hay, sawdust, grain, or excessive fungal growth on walls (Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis, n.d.). Diagnosis of the disease can be a difficult task. Patients suffering from the disease will develop influenza-like symptoms, cough, and shortness of breath. Crackles may be heard over the lungs, and respiratory function tests show a restrictive abnormality (Davis, 1983). The most effective treatment is avoiding all contact with the causative agent. If Bird Fancier’s Lung is not detected early, the patient’s chances for improvement are extremely limited and the disease could also become fatal.
Pigeon fancying can be dated back hundreds of years. The ancient Greeks used pigeons to carry messages. Pigeon messaging was even used to aid the British during World War II. Men in Great Britain eventually decided to begin racing the birds to prove their capabilities as superior pigeon breeders. These highly intelligent birds are trained to use their homing instincts to return to their lofts from as far away as hundreds of miles. The official British duration record is 1173 miles in 15 days, and the fastest race speed ever recorded is 110.07 miles per hour (Bourke, 1997). Obviously an animal of this caliber will require many hours of training which can lead to some serious health risks to the pigeon breeder.
During the late 19th and 20th centuries, pigeon racing was a widely popular sport among working class men in the industrial districts of south Wales, central Scotland, and the north of England (Johnes, 2007). The pigeon loft was used as an escape from the monotony and pressures of life and for some would also become a bonding time for the entire family. It was here, in the pigeon loft, where the allergic antigens of Bird Fancier’s Lung were encountered by the breeders.
A typical pigeon loft measures eight feet long by eight feet wide. Inside the loft are cubicles for each of the birds to roost. The bird fanciers were regularly exposed to feathers, dust, and bird droppings while caring for their birds. The pigeon lofts also were usually poorly ventilated which would enable antigens to remain in the air allowing the breeder to inhale them. The main antigen associated with Bird Fancier’s Lung is serum proteins found in the droppings of the birds (Hargreave, 1973).
Each day the pigeon breeder would have to care for the birds. The bird droppings would need to be washed away from each bird’s cubicle and removed from the loft. The small particles of the antigens that were inhaled are smaller than six microns and are capable of penetrating to the peripheral respiratory tissues (Hargreave, 1973). This prolonged exposure and inhalation of bird dropping particles would cause an inflammation of the alveoli in the lungs.
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis, also known as extrinsic allergic alveolitis, is a...