I’ll admit that I don’t often think about the diseases I could get from my fish when I’m cleaning the fish tank. However, it is very important to understand that you can get a nasty disease that could harm you or any children in the house. In this blog I will address briefly the most common diseases that we might contract from wildlife, reptiles, and fish.
Common Wildlife and their Diseases
Most of us do not own any wildlife within our homes or on our property. It is actually illegal to do so
unless you are specially licensed by the state of Ohio (or Michigan). But that does not mean that we
will never come into contact with that wildlife. They come into our yards in the morning to browse and
forage for food. They are getting into the garbage you so diligently put out the night before.
Most of the animals that cross our paths are:
•Raccoons: Roundworms (Baylisascaris) are the most common parasitic disease raccoons will carry. Ingestion of their fecal material will most likely cause you to become infected. Rabies, Giardia, Leptospirosis, and fleas can also be associated with Raccoons. Keeping away from Raccoons is always a good idea. Some raccoons may act very tame and seemingly have no fear of human interaction. These animals might be infected with viral encephalitis. This disease causes them to lose any inhibition and fear of humans. Thus the possibility of disease transmission increases.
•Squirrels: Rabies, Fleas, and Leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans. I do not recommend feeding squirrels. I know that these cute animals will get your dog sick and potentially you as well.
•Skunks: Rabies and Leptospirosis are the most common potential diseases we might contract. Not to mention the smell that seemingly never leaves.
•Deer: Lyme disease and other Rickettsial diseases are the common diseases noted. Hunters are common victims of deer zoonotic diseases. The most common mode of transmission is via the black legged tick which carries lyme disease. The infected ticks attach to the hunter during the transportation and processing of the carcass. Any person can come into contact with these types of ticks if more deer are present in the area.
•Foxes and Coyotes: Although we may not see them often, these canine relatives do carry disease just like our domesticated dogs. Those diseases are rabies, leptospirosis, roundworms, fleas and giardia.
•Mice and Rats (other small rodents: chipmunks, etc.): Leptospirosis, Tularemia, and mycoplasma infections are probably the most important infections they can carry. Mice however can carry the Hantavirus that is spread by infected mice urine, feces, and saliva. Hantavirus is rare and the last outbreak in the United States was in the Four Corners region of the Southwest in 1993.
•Bats: I would hope everyone is aware that bats are known carriers of rabies. I you did not then you know now. If you encounter a bat within your house, please take extra caution to keep all people and pets away from it. Consider the bat as a rabies carrier and avoid it.
Protecting yourself from any of these diseases starts by using common sense and following simple rules such as frequent hand washing and removing sources of food and other items that wildlife might be attracted too. Remember that wildlife should stay wild. Never try to tame or domesticate a wild animal. By doing so you may injure it or become injured yourself.
Reptiles and fish will commonly carry Salmonella. A salmonella outbreak occurred beginning in 2011 involving 20 people getting sick from African hedgehogs. While I understand that a hedgehog is not a fish or reptile, it illustrates that even the cute and seemingly innocent animals can carry life threatening diseases. Fish and their associated aquarium water can transmit salmonella. Only adults who have a healthy immune system should clean the tank and handle the fish.
Reptiles carry toxoplasmosis which is causes a threat to pregnant women. I always caution those who have reptiles to always wash their hands after handling them.
I hope this helps. Look for another article on Zoonotics soon. If you have any questions please give us a call at 419-824-8177. We’re here to serve you and care for your pet.