News articles today (here and video here) about a Long Island woman, infested with bird mites, who was taken from her home in a HazMat suit and put in quarantine isolation gave me quite a jolt. The woman was most likely infested by mites from an abandoned bird nest in her bathroom vent.
While I don’t have any of the horrific symptoms of this type of bird mite infestation I live in close proximity to birds and regularly feed them. Birds, mainly sparrows and starlings, nest in the eaves, gutters and crannies of my house and I have several feeders on my porch. Doctors are quoted in the stories saying that, although the bird mites can cause extreme discomfort to humans they don’t feed on humans, only attacking them when their bird host dies or leaves the nest.
Several websites (here and here) dealing with these pests strongly disagree with that assessment saying there are numerous instances of people driven to the brink of suicide by total household and personal infestation depriving them of sleep, causing constant torment. One man bought a parakeet in the hope that the mites would attack the bird and leave him alone. They got the poor bird alright, attacking it so hard that it had to be put down, but the pests remained in the home. Below is a photograph of a Northern fowl mite, one of several type of bird mites.
The Long Island woman, Nina Bradica, gave this account of her ordeal:
“My whole shower was covered with them,” said Bradica, 45. “I didn’t even know they were there at first, I was drying myself with my towel in the bathroom. That’s how they got on me.”
One of Bradica’s doctors told CBS 2 HD bird mites can be a very severe problem.
“They can be a nuisance and some people have been infected for years with these bird mites and have had difficulty eradicating them,” said Dr. Kenneth Steier.
Added Dr. Shadab Ahmed of Nassau Medical Center, “They can stick to the body. They are extremely tiny. I just sent three to be tested to the parasitology lab for identification.”
Doctors say there is absolutely no public health hazard. Mites can’t feed off human skin and will eventually drop off, but until then …
Bradica tried to describe her discomfort.
“They do go inside you. They go in your nose. They go in your ears. They go in your mouth.”
she is covered with welts and red bumps and wonders if her home will ever be livable again.