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Common Wildlife Diseases

It’s important to know about common types of wildlife diseases if you live near wooded areas, frequently participate in outdoor activities, have pets, or work with animals. Infectious diseases carried by wild animals can be transmitted to both humans and domestic animals. These are called zoonoses, and more than 150 are known to exist. Continue reading to learn about 3 specific zoonotic diseases that are often carried and transmitted by common North American wildlife.

Rabies

Rabies is one of the most well-known and feared infectious viral diseases. It is caused by a viral agent called Rabies virus, and is transmitted through an animal bite, which allows infected saliva to enter the victim’s bloodstream. Symptoms vary and gradually worsen as the disease progresses, but common symptoms often include fever, malaise, confusion, disorientation, muscle paralysis, convulsions, excessive salivation, shortness of breath, and eventually death.

For animals, rabies is almost always fatal. Once the disease develops, there is no treatment or cure for dogs or cats. On the other hand, people rarely die from Rabies because there are treatments available for people bitten by a rabid animal. Common carriers include raccoons, coyotes, foxes, bats, and elk.

Leptospirosis

Although not as well known as rabies, leptospirosis is another serious zoonotic disease carried and transmitted by wild animals. It is a bacterial infection caused by spirochaete bacteria of the genus, Leptospira. Common carriers include skunks, raccoons, deer, rabbits, moles, and opossums. But unlike rabies, leptospirosis is not spread by contaminated saliva. Instead, it is transmitted through contaminated urine from an infected animal. Transmission occurs when contaminated urine, soil, or water comes into contact with scratched or injured skin or is swallowed. Sometimes, a dog may drink from a contaminated puddle on the ground.

Most cases of leptospirosis in humans are mild, and some people show no signs of infection at all. But if left untreated, leptospirosis can lead to meningitis, which is a condition that causes swelling of the tissue membranes around the brain. And this can be fatal. Treatment for humans and pets generally includes antibiotics, glucose and saline infusions, and in severe cases, dialysis.

Raccoon Roundworm

Raccoon roundworm goes by many names and is not exclusively carried and spread by raccoons. Scientifically it is called Baylisascaris Procyonis. But his condition is known as cutaneous and visceral larval migrants. These are basically worms that penetrate the skin and settle in an area near the surface, causing redness, inflammation, itching and pain. Transmission occurs when the parasite’s eggs are ingested. They enter the intestinal tract and migrate through the organs to the skin.

Ingestion of infected animal feces is a common cause of transmission, as is ingestion of food or water contaminated with the roundworm parasite. The severity of the infection depends on how many and to which organs the parasites have migrated. If they migrate to the eyes, brain or spinal cord, the damage can be irreversible.

Prevention

Maintaining good hygiene, vaccinations, and pet vaccinations are effective methods of protecting yourself, your loved ones, and your pets from an infectious wildlife disease. Also, professional wildlife control services can be very beneficial because they can protect your property from potential animal invasions, damage and hazards.

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