When there is no communication between urban planners and public health operators: urban Dermanyssus gallinae infestations in humans

Igiene e Sanità Pubblica 2022; 79(2)62-69

Annunziata Giangaspero1*, Vito D’Onghia2, Antonella Puccini3, Maria Filomena Caiaffa4, Luigi Macchia5, Alessandra Barlaam1

1Department of Agriculture, Food, Natural Resources and Engineering (DAFNE), University of Foggia, Via Napoli 25, 71121 Foggia, Italy
2Department of Science in Civil Engineering and Architecture (DICAR), Polytechnic University of Bari, Via E. Orabona 4, 70125, Bari, Italy
3Agenzia Sanitalia Locale, Via Tratturo Castiglione 14, 71122, Foggia, Italy
4School and Chair of Allergology and Clinical Immunology, Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, University of Foggia, Italy
5School and Chair of Allergology and Clinical Immunology, Department of Emergency and Organ Transplantation, University of Bari – Aldo Moro, Italy

At the international level, it is necessary to apply urban health strategies that can integrate concrete actions to protect and promote health in urban and architectural planning. In cities, the “urban fauna” mostly consists of synanthropic birds (sparrows, starlings, swallows, martins, jackdaws, crows, hawks, gulls, pigeons) that have adapted to a continuous relationship with humans. These animals enrich the ecological network of biodiversity but also pose health problems. The most successful avian colonizers are pigeons (Columba livia), which proliferate due to the abundance of food available to them and the absence of predators. Pigeons may harbor several organisms that are pathogenic for humans, and among these the role of Dermanyssus gallinae should not be underestimated. In the absence of their preferred pigeon host, these mites will move from the nest to windowsills and window frames from which they attack humans. The Authors show that modern architectural design features in towns can favor the establishment and proliferation of pigeons, contributing to the public health risk for dermanyssosis or other diseases related to these birds. They describe an outbreak of dermanyssosis due to incorrect or unsuitable structural interventions, and highlight the need of re-thinking urban architectural choices in order to safeguard public health.

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