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Family says pigeon coop to blame for child’s illness

LEBANON, Ind.- Is a pigeon coop with more than a hundred birds inside responsible for a local child’s serious illness? A Lebanon family believes that’s the case, and  their little boy is now at Riley Hospital fighting a severe infection, which experts say can come from exposure to bird droppings.

Six-year-old Preston Reagan got sick last week and his family said he remains in serious condition, despite making improvements.

“Right now they’re trying to get him to urinate, because his kidneys are not producing the urination that he needs,” said Preston’s father, Nathan Reagan, “that’s why he’s on dialysis.”

Reagan says doctors diagnosed him with cryptococcosis, a fungal infection which can be fatal. His family thinks he got this infection from a pigeon coop that is next door to where they live.

Reagan says his older son Eli also tested positive, but his symptoms aren’t as severe.

Reagan said doctors asked if the boys had been around farm animals recently, which he says they had not.

“They [Riley doctors] looked it up, and said pigeons and birds can carry the disease that he has, but pigeons are more of a risk,” said Reagan.

The man who owns the coop, Roland Wamsley, disputes the idea his birds made the children sick.

“This is my hobby, this is what I do,” said Wamsley, “I’ve done it all my life.”

Wamsley said he currently has about one hundred pigeons.

“You have to keep it clean every day, scraping the floors and the roost, keeping the manure up,” said Wamsley, in regards to his efforts to keep the coops clean. He said he doesn’t know anything about the kids getting sick.

“They don’t come over here and play and if they do, I’ve run them off a couple times because they was [sic] over there throwing rocks at them and beating them with a stick,” said Wamsley.

So far there has been no official determination the children were actually infected by Wamsley’s birds. But earlier this week, the children’s grandmother Jalene Strawmeyer took the issue to the Lebanon City Council.

“If the pigeons are the cause I’m worried that bringing them [sic] boys back to this apartment they could be right back where they are now,” said Strawmeyer.

The city’s planning director said they have now determined Wamsley is in violation of the city’s domestic animal ordinance. On Friday, the city sent Wamsley a letter informing him of the violation, and letting him know he has two weeks tow bring the number of animals on his property down to just three.

Wamsley said he does not have a problem getting rid of those pigeons if the city determines that is what is needed. The Boone County Health Department said it did an inspection of the property and found there to be no public health risk or emergency, but does have an on-going investigation underway.