General Question

Cupcake's avatar

Is bat guano really dangerous?

Asked by Cupcake (15502points) July 29th, 2009
14 responses
“Great Question” (3points)

Long story… my fiance and I discovered lots of bat droppings in the attic a couple of months ago. Since a bat had gotten in the house (plus we need clean attic space for when he moves in a couple of weeks from now), I called a “wildlife removal specialist” to do bat exclusion work. He claimed that the bat droppings (guano) contained diseases (specifically histoplasmosis, plus others) and exposure to the guano was dangerous.

Since I have many possessions in the attic that have been contaminated with disease-ridden guano (and since I’m cleaning out to prepare for my new life with my fiance), I decided to get rid of most of my things in the attic. The wildlife-removal specialist is returning on Friday morning to haul out my possessions and remove the contaminated insulation throughout the attic.

So I just spent an hour in the hot attic with a particulate filter mask and gloves on, trying to salvage my most important possessions (ie. some books, photographs, book cases) and I got to thinking, “doesn’t every attic have a few bats? Is it really that big of a deal?”

Perhaps I’m just sweaty and dehydrated… but the whole thing seems sillier and sillier. What do you think? Is bat guano immunologically dangerous? Is histoplasmosis (the disease supposedly carried in bat guano, which is endemic in the eastern US) really of such concern to warrant the equivalent of an entire wedding budget-worth in professional cleanup (albeit a very small and simple outdoor wedding, and the cleanup covered by homeowners insurance)?

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The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Any fecal matter is potentially dangerous. Just take appropriate precautions like rubber gloves and breathing protection and you should be ok.

BhacSsylan's avatar

Short answer: yes

Long answer: though you probably won’t die from it, the diseases in bat guano are rather nasty. And especially since the cleanup is covered by insurance, there’s no reason for you to consider doing otherwise.

Interesting tidbit: In ‘War of the Witches’, a non-fiction book about holdovers of mayan religions in south america, it’s said that dirt from bat’s caves are put in an opponent’s house to ‘curse’ them. The resulting histoplasmis is very frequently fatal.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

Abandon the advice of the wildlife specialist and ask random people on the internet. That’s the way to go.

syz's avatar

As long as you take basic precautions (wear a mask when disturbing dust, etc), you really shouldn’t have any issues unless you are immune compromised (HIV, chemotherapy, etc). You’ll notice when you do an internet search, the sites with the most strident warnings are companies that provide removal service.

syz (35649points)“Great Answer” (0points)
dpworkin's avatar

It’s the fungus that distributes the histoplasmosis spores. The spores may exist in the guano, but the fungus would have to be active in your attic to release the spores.

shilolo's avatar

Histoplasmosis can be dangerous, even to people with normal immune systems, though as syz said, the immunocompromised have greater risk. Inhaling a large inoculum like from cleaning an attic full of bat guano could lead to serious illness like pneumonia or disseminated infection, so I would definitely take precautions. In addition, bats can be carriers of rabies, although the risk of this is very low.

critter1982's avatar

Listen to pdworkin. We have a similar issue in our attic and I’ve done a ton of research. The bat guano in an un-disturbed state will not hurt you. However, once you start cleaning it up the spores are released and can be extremely hazardous to your health. Unfortunately it is very expensive to have someone come to your house to do it, but it is well worth it. In fact I got a quote from somebody to come and rid my bats, patch up all the holes, clean up, and re-insulate. The quote came in at around $10,000.

@BhacSsylan: Do you need special insurance for that? I was unaware insurance covered this and I still need to get my attic cleaned out.

BhacSsylan's avatar

@critter1982 Oh, i don’t know about that. I only said that because he said “the cleanup covered by homeowners insurance” in the original post. Can’t say I know much about homeowner’s insurance. Sorry if I read that wrong!

Cupcake's avatar

@critter1982: I guess all homeowner insurance policies cover this differently. My bat guy told me that usually (if anything is covered) the bat exclusion work is covered. My insurance company, however, told me that the exclusion work was considered general maintenance and was not covered. Also, damage to my belongings was not covered. The cleaning work and removal and replacement of insulation was covered, though. It’s definitely worth a phone call and a claim.

fireside's avatar

@critter1982 – it is definitely worth a call to insurance! Even though the quote for exclusion, clean up and insulation was less than yours, it was good to hear that insurance would be covering part of it.

Money aside, Cupcake’s fiance doesn’t want to be the one being exposed to such things as inoculum, histoplasmosis, disseminated infection or even guano : )

Cupcake's avatar

What do you mean @fireside – we’re not spending $10,000 on the wedding??? ;) Not to worry, the guano (and related histoplasmosis) will be gone tomorrow… and then you won’t need to worry about exposure ~when you move your belongings into the attic.

fireside's avatar

@Cupcake – it is so worth it to have a “bat guy” : )
Then we can enjoy the honeymoon without worry of lung infection.

shilolo's avatar

What?! You two are getting married? The histo must have already infected your brains… :-P

fireside's avatar

What can I say?
It’s hard to resist a delicious Cupcake : )

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