It’s no secret that wild animals can host a wide assortment of parasites and diseases. Diseases that can pass from wild animals to humans are referred to as zoonotic diseases. While you may be familiar with some, such as rabies, many of the animals in our area can carry a number of zoonotic diseases that can pose a threat to you and your family. Below, we will discuss some of the more common types that are prevalent in wild animals.
Rabies: the Most Commonly Known Zoonotic Disease
Rabies is among one of the more well-known zoonotic diseases. Although, many people only know it for animals acting crazy and foaming at the mouth. This is a common trope in TV and movies. Rabies is a preventable illness that is usually transmitted through a bite. Only mammals can contract this disease. It can infect humans and domestic animals as well. Rabies impacts the central nervous system and the brain. It can spread rapidly through the body and lead to fever, aches and pains, muscle weakness, paralysis, and even death. Generally, many of the symptoms of early rabies can mimic other illnesses. But, because it is mainly spread through bites, doctors can usually point to that as the source of the illness to create a diagnosis. For more information on rabies, visit the CDC’s page on the disease.
Giardiasis is a diarrheal disease that is caused by a microscopic parasite. The parasite is usually transmitted through the stool of infected animals. The parasite can survive for weeks or even months outside the body, including in water. Animal waste is often a common transmitter of this parasite. Common animals that carry it include rats, beavers, deer, and coyotes. In most adult cases, the illness will cause diarrhea and will run its course over time with minimal additional symptoms. However, in children, the disease can be more severe, and can even lead to developmental delays if not treated swiftly.
Raccoon roundworm is a helminthic zoonotic disease. This means that it is a disease that is brought upon by parasitic worms. Raccoon roundworms are most often transmitted through raccoon feces. Raccoons prefer to take care of their waste near water sources, which include pools. However, their feces may also be on the ground. Most human cases of this condition involve children that were playing outside and interacting with the microscopic parasite. Symptoms of this disease include nausea, fatigue, liver enlargement, loss of muscle control, poor attention span, blindness, and even comas.
Hantavirus: a Zoonotic Disease from Rodents
Hantavirus is often found in infected rodents, such as mice, rats, and squirrels. It is often transmitted to humans via saliva or waste product. While there are multiple forms of antivirus, spread by different rodents across different continents, the main symptoms that are universal include fatigue, fever, muscle aches, dizziness, abdominal problems, and headaches. Further symptoms may also include vomiting, diarrhea, and more. It can also cause a secondary infection called Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. According to the CDC, HPS has a 38% mortality rate.