Wild Animal Diseases
In addition to being pests that can potentially damage your property, wild animals can also carry a wide range of diseases. Some of these can't be transmitted to humans, while others can affect you, your family, and/or your pets. Because of this, it is crucial to always handle wild animals with care, never touching them whether they are alive or dead. The majority of wild animal diseases will be spread either through their waste products, such as feces, or by scratches or bites. There are also other health-related issues, such as ticks and worms that can spread by touch, which is why you should always exercise caution.
What Humans Can't Catch
There are several wild animal diseases that can only affect humans when they eat infected meat. Because of this, there is no concern about contracting these conditions simply by coming into contact with an infected wild animal. One example of these diseases would be trichinosis, which can lead to diarrhea, photophobia, muscle pain and soreness, thirst, chills, sweating, skin lesions, and weakness. It will also only affect pets if they consume infected meat. This means that as long as your pet dog or cat does not hunt infected animals, they will be safe from the disease as well.
What Humans Can Catch
Perhaps the wild animal disease that most humans are concerned about is rabies. This severe viral disease affects our central nervous system and can affect any warm-blooded mammal, from humans to pets to wild animals. If treatment doesn't begin right away, it will be fatal. Rabies typically affects animals in the form of “furious” rabies that causes aggressive behavior followed by convulsions and paralysis or “dumb rabies” which is simply tremors and convulsions with no sign of aggression. There may also be behavioral changes accompanies with rabies, such as bats flying during the day. Rabies is typically transmitted by saliva and despite popular belief, it is not very common. While it can affect humans and pets alike, this does not happen frequently.
Hantavirus is another wild animal disease which can affect humans and this particular illness is typically carried by rodents and transmitted either by animal bites or through their contaminated feces (in aerosol form). This is a febrile illness that is only sometimes fatal, due to its respiratory, blood, and kidney ailments.
Leptospirosis is typically spread by rodents, particularly through contact with the infected urine. It can also affect other animals, however, including pets and can infect humans via small cuts or abrasions or mucous membranes. There may be no symptoms, but other people experience diarrhea, vomiting, chills, and kidney damage. Most of the time, however, it is spread by consuming food that has come in contact with infected urine or feces, meaning that hygiene is the most effective prevention technique.
There are also a wide range of tick-borne diseases that humans can catch indirectly from wild animals, if they are carrying infected ticks. These include Colorado tick fever, which occurs in the highlands and mountains of the western United States and Canada and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which occurs only in the Rocky Mountain region.
What Pets Can Catch
Of the above conditions, your pets are at risk of rabies, although the chances of them contracting it are minimal. They may also develop leptospirosis. If your cat roams outside and your area has rodents infected with trichinosis, then there is a possibility he will catch that condition if he eats an infected animal.
It is also possible for your pets to catch various parasites from wild animals, depending on what they are infected with. These may include hookworm, roundworm, and ringworm, all of which can pass to humans as well. The first of these two conditions can cause abdominal symptoms or itchy, painful skin infections, while tapeworms affect the intestinal tract.
Spread From Feces
A large number of the wild animal diseases that affect humans and/or pets are spread via feces. These include leptospirosis, histoplasmosis, ornithosis, and toxoplasmosis. Histoplasmosis affects the respiratory tract of humans and occurs when you inhale spores from infected feces, typically from birds such as bats. Symptoms may range from negligible to severe.
Toxoplasmosis is another disease typically spread via feces, particularly contaminated cat feces or those of other wild animals. When contracting this condition from wild animals, the disease will typically be transferred in the garden. It causes symptoms resembling flu, but it may lead to birth defects if you are pregnant.
From Bites Or Scratches
Rabies is the best-known wild animal disease transmitted by bites or scratches, but others exist as well. Rat-bite fever is contracted by humans when they are bitten by a rat and it is due to the bacteria known as Streptobacillus moniliformis and has several variations.
Although rare (and typically along the East Coast), it is also possible to contract rickettsialpox from house mice via bites. This diseases is non-fatal and resembles chicken pox.
Read the Pest Wildlife Home Page page for helpful information and to learn more about Wild Animal Diseases
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