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Wildlife Diseases & Health Risks

The list below consists of zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that can be passed between animals to humans. These diseases, if transmitted, can be dangerous to humans and household pets. For these reasons, it is always smart to never approach or try to trap any wild animal on your own. Always call a professional that has the proper equipment and knowledge to safely trap or remove wild animals. Each disease below also mentions the types of animals that could be carriers. If you have any further questions on a particular disease, please feel free to call our office.

Rabies

ANIMALS CARRIERS: BATS (#1 Carrier in North America), RACCOONS, SKUNKS, FOXES, OPOSSUMS (very unlikely), BOBCATS, FERAL CATS, PANTHERS

Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.

The rabies virus is only transmittable through saliva or brain / nervous system tissue. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people and animals are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hyper salivation (increase in saliva), foaming at the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.

If you have been bitten by a rabid animal, thoroughly wash the area with soapy water. The next step would be to seek medical attention, whether it is your doctor or the ER. They will decide whether or not a rabies shot is necessary.


Raccoon Round Worm (Baylisascaris procyonis)

ANIMALS CARRIERS: RACCOONS

Raccoon Roundworm is the common large roundworm or ascarid found in the small intestinal tract of raccoons. Adult worms measure 15 to 20 cm in length and 1 cm in width. They are tan-white in color, cylindrical and taper at both ends.

Roundworm is an airborne disease that can be inhaled by humans and other animals. People or animals who accidentally swallow or breath in any material contaminated with eggs (fecal-oral exposure), can be infected. Young children are particularly at risk. Infections in people can result in parasite cyst formation in the brain, eye or other organs. Severe infections are dose dependent and relatively uncommon, but have resulted in deaths. Symptoms may include fever, nausea, unusual tiredness, loss of coordination, inability to focus attention, loss of muscle control, muscle aches or pain, vision impairment, and respiratory signs.

For these reasons, it is ALWAYS best to contact a professional wildlife removal service to remove any raccoons in your attic or anywhere else in the property. Contact with any raccoon fecal matter can be extremely dangerous.


Salmonalla (Salmonellosis)

ANIMALS CARRIERS: Can be found in the feces of pigeons, and rats. The disease can also be transmitted to humans from touching snakes.

Salmonellosis, is an infection from the bacteria called Salmonella.

Symptoms can last four to seven days. Although, most persons recover without treatment, in some persons, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. In these patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.


Lyme Disease

ANIMALS CARRIERS: All mammals can contract the disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks.

Early symptoms for both humans and animals are fever, headache, fatigue and a distinctive skin rash called a erythema migrans. The erythema migrans rash will look similar to a bulls eye. It occurs in 70 – 80% of persons and begins at the tick bite site after 3 – 30 days. The rash can also reach up to 12 inches across. Parts of the rash may clear as it enlarges giving it that “bulls-eye” look. If Lyme disease is diagnosed early enough, an antibiotic can be administered and the patient can be back to normal within a few weeks. However, if left untreated or if a person makes the mistake of associating the symptoms with another disease, such as the flu, the disease can progress and start to affect the nervous symptom. Serious symptoms of Lyme disease are infection in the joints, the heart and the nervous system.

Rashes may spread to other parts of the body, Facial paralysis can occur on part of the face or all, severe headaches will start as well as neck stiffness due to meningitis, there can be pain and swelling in the large joints (like the knees), heart palpitations dizziness, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet and problems with short term memory.

Tick bites should be taken very seriously. If you see a tick on you, another person, or on your pets and it is not engorged then pull it off and dispose of it. If the tick is engorged, and it’s infected, than it may have had enough time to spread the disease into your skin. The best thing to do would be to pull it off, clean the area with alcohol, and take a visit to your doctor for further precautions. The best thing to do for your pets is to always keep them on an anti-flea / tick regiment. Never let their regimen lapse in-between treatments. If they aren’t on a treatment and do get bit by a tick, visiting your veterinarian would be a good next step.


Leptospirosis

ANIMALS CARRIERS: Rodents (Urine and Feces)

The bacteria that cause leptospirosis are spread through the urine and feces of infected animals. Infected urine can seep into water or soil and can survive there for weeks to months. Infection can also spread through touching or digesting infected feces.

Animals infected with the bacteria can carry the disease with no symptoms. These animals may continue to excrete the bacteria into the environment continuously, for a few months or up to several years. Humans can become infected contact with urine (or other body fluids, except saliva) from infected animals contact with water, soil, or food contaminated with the urine of infected animals.
The bacteria can enter the body through skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth), especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection.


Rat-Bite Fever

ANIMALS CARRIERS: Rodents

Rat-bite fever (RBF) is an infectious disease that can be caused by two different bacteria. Streptobacillary RBF is caused by Streptobacillus moniliformis in North America while spirillary RBF or sodoku is caused by Spirillum minus and occurs mostly in Asia. People usually get the disease from infected rodents or consumption of contaminated food or water. When the latter occurs, the disease is often known as Haverhill fever. If not treated, RBF can be a serious or even fatal disease.

Humans can contract Rat-Bite Fever through infected rodents such as rats, mice and gerbils. This disease can even be spread just by holding an infected rodent, without being bitten or scratched. The disease can also be spread by drinking or eating food that has been contaminated. The disease, however, cannot be spread from person to person. Symptoms can include fever, vomiting, headache, muscle pain, joint pain and rash. If left untreated the disease can affect the heart, brain, lungs causing breathing problems and other organs. If diagnosed, antibiotics can treat the disease and patients should make a full recovery.


Rickettsia Virus

Rickettsiae and rickettsia-like bacteria are an unusual type of bacteria that cause several diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and epidemic typhus. These bacteria differ from most other bacteria in that they can live and multiply only inside the cells of another organism (host) and cannot survive on their own in the environment.

Usually, rats and mice are the host of this disease. Host animals may not be sick themselves from the infection. What normally happens is that these animals have ticks, fleas, mites or lice. The insect, which fed on an infected animal, will then bite a human or animal and spread the disease through the bite. After being bit, a sore covered by a black scab will often form at the site. Symptoms may be fever, severe headache, a rash and a general feeling of illness. If you think that you’ve been bitten and are feeling ill, the best thing to do is to seek medical attention. Your doctor will be able to prescribe you an antibiotic. Symptoms usually clear up within 3 days to 1 week. If no treatment is given, symptoms can become deadly.


Hantavirus

Some species of rats such as the cotton rat or rice rat are known carriers of hantavirus. Norway rats and roof rats are not known transmitters of hantavirus. Hantavirus is transmitted to humans when they inhale airborne particles from rodent droppings, urine or carcasses that have been disturbed.

Victims may be debilitated and can experience difficulty breathing. The first symptoms of the virus can be mistaken for the flu. Patients then suffer breathing difficulties that may prove fatal if not treated effectively and immediately. In order to avoid hantavirus, all mouse feces, nest materials and dead rodents must be removed from the home. Spray suspected areas thoroughly with disinfectant before sweeping to avoid having anything become airborne. Use gloves to handle rodent carcasses or droppings and a respirator must be worn with functioning cartridges. Buildings should be aired out following an infestation. Not all rodents have been found to carry hantavirus. Deer mice, cotton rats, rice rats and white-footed mice are the most common transmitters. However, everyone should use caution in dealing with rodents or rodent infestations and contact a pest control professional.


Cryptococcus

Cryptococcus is a type of yeast fungus that can be found in pigeon and other bird droppings. When pigeons invade an areas, such as an attic in a home or commercial building, the dander and feces that is left behind can be a carrier of the disease.

Victims that contract Cryptococcus are usually individuals that have a compromised immune system, as the disease usually doesn’t harm those who do not. Symptoms of the disease can be compared to that of pneumonia. Some people may experience shortness of breath, coughing, fever, and/or skin lesions. This disease can also cause a central nervous system infection, such as meningoencephalitis. Symptoms may include fever, headache and change in mental status. This disease cannot be spread from person to person. Inhalation or ingestion of bird feces is the highest cause its spread.


Psittacosis

Psittacosis is a respiratory disease caused by the bacteria Chlamydophila psittaci. The disease can effect a variety of birds including, parakeets, doves and ducks but in urban, highly populated areas can be spread mainly from pigeons. The bacteria is normally found in bird droppings and nasal discharge and can be spread to other birds through inhalation or ingestion. The disease can also be spread from touching contaminated objects or areas. Insects, mites and lice can also be carriers.

Humans can contract Psittacosis through inhalation of dried, infected feces or secretions from sick birds. Direct contact with a sick bird can also be a cause of infection. Symptoms of the disease may include flu-like signs such as, fever, chills, headache, dry cough, difficulty breathing and pneumonia. Sever cases that are left untreated can eventually affect the nervous system. The best prevention is to always wash hands after dealing with a bird. If you have had a bird infestation in your home or property, never try to clean the areas yourself. Hire a professional that has the proper attire and respiratory equipment to handle these types of situations.