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Wildlife Disease Concerns

Jul 23, 2008
Zoonotic diseases are the diseases which are transmissible in nature between humans and other animals. There are about 150 zoonotic diseases. People working with wildlife should be aware about the potential for disease transmission from animals. They must use sound preventive measures. Disease is more easily prevented than treated. Most zoonotic diseases are very common in nature, rare in humans and also come with mild symptoms.


Rabies is almost invariably fatal. The disease is maintained in nature by bats and carnivorous mammals. The species of wild animal most likely to carry rabies tends to be specific within a region. The signs of rabies are variable so don't attempt to guess or play the odds with an animal that is behaving in an unusual manner. Neurological signs may indicate rabies and should be treated as such. If human exposure to a potentially rabid animal occurs, consult your physician immediately.

Infectious agents

Histoplasma capsulatum:

It is transmitted through inhalation of infective spores. The organism thrives in the soil that has been enriched by the presence of decaying bird or bat droppings. The organism grows in the upper 1-2 inches of the soil. On first contact, the person will become infected. The majority of people who become infected develop only mild respiratory infections and, once they are recovered, they become resistant. More severe infections are encountered in contaminated environments.

Aspirgillus fumigatus:

The fungus is found all over in our environment. While under stress in a captive facility, rehab animals are more likely to develop the fungal disease. They in turn shed the spores of the fungus and the workers may inhale them. In birds, respiratory signs are visible. Most healthy people have no trouble resisting infection. However, this is not true for anyone who has been debilitated by illness, other diseases, or has been on long term antibiotic.

Lyme disease:

Lyme disease is, in general, treatable disease. Lyme disease most often acquired from the bite of an infected tick. Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto is the predominant cause of Lyme disease in the U.S. The disease varies widely in its presentation, which may include a rash and flu-like symptoms in its initial stage, followed by the possibility of musculoskeletal, arthritic, neurologic, psychiatric and cardiac manifestations. A small percentage of patients with Lyme disease have symptoms that last months after treatment with antibiotics. These symptoms include muscle and joint pains, arthritis, cognitive defects, neurological complaints or fatigue.


Baylisascaris is a common intestinal roundworm parasite of raccoons. In the raccoon it does little damage, however, in including humans it is an important cause of fatal nervous system disease, eye disease, and damage to other vital organs. When an infected raccoon defecates, the surrounding area becomes contaminated with Baylisascaris eggs. While worming can rid the intestine of adult Baylisascaris, there is no treatment that has been shown to alleviate illness caused by migrating larvae.


Blastomycosis is a fungal disease of humans and animals. The fungus which causes blastomycosis is probably inhaled in spore laden dust. Environmental variables which appear most important for the growth of the fungus are temperature and humidity.

Blastomycosis can present in one of the following ways:

1. Flu like illness with fever, chills, myalgia, headache, and a nonproductive cough which resolves within days.

2. An acute illness resembling bacterial pneumonia, with symptoms of high fever, chills, a productive cough, and pleuritic chest pain.

3. Skin lesions, usually asymptomatic, appear as ulcerated lesions with small pustules at the margins

Rabbit Fever

It is caused by rodents and rabbits. It has been seen in fox, beaver, mice, and muskrats. It is transmitted while handling infected animals, contamination of cuts, mosquito bites, and by inhalation. Symptoms are flu-like with an ulcer forming on the skin at the site the organism entered, this is followed by enlargement of the lymph nodes; if ingested, vomiting and diarrhea are seen; if inhaled, pneumonia. Humans do die from this disease.
About the Author
Daniel is a professional bat removal expert. Daniel provides non trapping bat control in the state of Michigan.
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