Worried about animals in our home?

Nuisance wildlife can act as potential precursors of disease in your home. Unfortunately, common nuisance wildlife such as rats, mice, raccoons, and mosquitoes are associated with many different diseases.

If you have any nuisance wildlife populations in or near your home, it might be time to call in help from a professional to eliminate this potential threat to your health. You can easily avoid most of these zoonotic diseases with proper control of wildlife populations in your home.

Here’s a breakdown of the common zoonotic diseases that you should be concerned about if you have a nuisance wildlife population sharing your space.

Zoonotic Diseases Transmissible through Nuisance Wildlife

Animals involvedTransmission pathwaysPrevention
RabiesDomestic and wild carnivorous mammals, including bats.Direct contact such as a bite.Seek vaccination before contact. Avoid contact with potentially infected animals
HantavirusRodentsBites. Inhaling aerosolized virus from urine, feces, or saliva.Wear gloves when handling rodents
Mosquito-borne EncephalitisMosquitosBitesUse mosquito repellant
TuberculosisDomestic animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, horses, pigs, dogs, and cats. Wild mammals such as boars, deer, and antelopes.Inhalation of aerosolized bacteria from urine, feces, or saliva.
Consumption of unpasteurized dairy products.
Avoid close contact with infected animals. Avoid unpasteurized dairy products.
Leprosy- Hansen’s DiseaseArmadillosInhalation of bacteria spores.Avoid close contact with infected individuals.
CryptococcosisBirds, such as pigeons.Inhalation of disease-causing fungus from aerosolized bird droppings.Avoid inhaling aerosolized bird droppings.
Raccoon Roundworm – Baylisascaris InfectionRaccoons.Contact with infected raccoon feces. Or consumption of infected raccoon feces.Avoid consumption of contaminated food. Avoid contact with raccoons. Call a professional to remove raccoons.
Rat-bite feverRodents such as rats and mice.Bite from an infected rodent. Consumption of food products contaminated by rodent excrement.Avoid rodents.
RickettsialpoxMites on infected rodents.Bite from an infected mite.Reduce mice populations near your home.
HistoplasmosisFungus spores released from dried bird or bat droppings.Inhalation of fungus spore.Reduce bird roosts near human populations. Clean out old roosts with the help of professionals.
OrnithosisWild birds, poultry, and pet birdsInhalation of dust which contains droppings or secretions of infected birds.Avoid breathing in dust that contains bird droppings or secretions.
PsittacosisWild birds, poultry, and pet birdsInhalation of dust which contains droppings or secretions of infected birds.Avoid breathing in dust that contains bird droppings or secretions.
Influenza Flu (H1N1)Wild birds, poultry, pigs.Inhalation of dust which contains droppings or secretions of infected animals.Avoid breathing in dust that contains droppings or secretions of infected animals.
Carecarial Dermatitis – Swimmer’s ItchWild birds and mammals that live around water such as geese, ducks, wading birds, beavers, and muskrats.Swimming in contaminated water.Avoid contaminated water.

Zoonotic diseases transmissible through ectoparasites

Ectoparasites are organisms that live on the skin of a host. Typical ectoparasites from nuisance wildlife include fleas and ticks.

Animals involvedTransmission pathwaysPrevention
Colorado Tick FeverRocky Mountain tick.Bite from infected Rocky Mountain tick.Avoid tick bites.
TularemiaTicks, deer flys, and infected animals such as rodents, rabbits, hares, and domestic cats.Bite from infected tick or deer fly. Skin contact with infected animals.Avoid tick and deer fly bites. Avoid contact with rodents, rabbits, and hares.
Rocky Mountain Spotted FeverTicks.Bite from an infected tick.Avoid tick bites.
Relapsing FeverTicks or lice.Bite from an infected tick or louse.Avoid tick bites and sleeping in rodent-infested dwellings.
Lyme DiseaseTicks.Bite from an infected tick.Avoid tick bites.
PlagueFleas on rodents.Bite from an infected flea.Avoid rodent-infested areas and flea bites.
Murine Typhus FeverFleas on small mammals such as rats, mice, and opossums.Bite from an infected flea.Avoid flea bites.

Zoonotic diseases transmissible through the consumption of contaminated foods

Animals involvedTransmission pathwaysPrevention
TrichinosisWild carnivorous  mammals or omnivorous animals, including domestic pigs and wild boarsEating undercooked meat of infected animalsCook meat to safe temperatures before ingesting
BrucellosisDomestic animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, horses, and dogs. Wild mammals such as rodents, deer, bison, elk, moose, camels, and water buffalos.Consumption of undercooked meat or raw dairy produced by infected animals. Bacteria may enter the body through open wounds or inhalation.Cook meat to safe temperatures. Do not consume unpasteurized dairy products.
AnthraxDomestic animals and wildlife that graze.Consumption of infected animals products. Bacteria may also enter the body through inhalation or open wounds.Avoid consumption of undercooked meat. Avoid handling hides of infected animals.
Escherichia ColiDomestic animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs, deer, dogs, and poultry.Consumption of undercooked meat or unpasteurized dairy from infected animals.Clean raw foods and cook thoroughly at safe temperatures before ingesting.
Q FeverDomestic animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats.Consumption of unpasteurized dairy products from infected animals. Bacteria may also enter the body through inhalation.Avoid consumption of unpasteurized dairy products. Avoid inhaling barn dust.
Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD)Cattle.Consumption of infected meat.Avoid consumption of infected animal meat.
SalmonellosisReptiles, amphibians, poultry, wild birds, rodents, small mammals, cattle, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, dogs, and catsConsumption of contaminated food.Wash hands before preparing food. Store food properly to prevent rodent contamination.
LeptospirosisDomestic animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, horses, pigs, dogs, and cats. Wild mammals such as boars, deer, and rodents.Consumption of water contaminated with the urine of an infected animal. Bite from an infected animal.Avoid potentially contaminated water. Avoid animal bites.

Zoonotic Diseases from Nuisance Wildlife

Let’s take a closer look at the zoonotic diseases that can be contracted from an encounter with nuisance wildlife.

If you suspect that you have come in contact with a zoonotic disease, the best thing to do is work with a medical professional immediately.


Any mammal can carry rabies. However, the disease is commonly found in wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats, coyotes, and foxes. In addition to wildlife, domesticated animals such as dogs, cats, and cattle, can be rabid.

Rabid animals can transmit the disease through any form of direct contact, such as saliva touching any broken skin or mucous membranes. The most common transmission method is a bite from a rabid animal.

The good news is that you can be vaccinated against possible infections. Plus, you can avoid possibly infected animals. If an animal is behaving unusually, then it is best to avoid it. But if you are bitten, contact a medical professional after washing out the wound with soap and water.


The larvae of Trichinella worms cause trichinosis. The larvae can be found in undercooked meat from wild game or domestic animals. In particular, bears, boars, domestic pigs, felines, foxes, dogs, wolves, horses, seals, and walruses are all known carriers of this parasite.

If you ingest the worm larvae, you may experience nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, fever, chills, joint pain, or muscle pain. Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect this infection.


Cotton rats, deer mice, rice rats, and white-footed mice are known carriers of hantavirus in the United States. The disease involves fevers, headaches, lower back pain, nausea, and extensive respiratory issues.

If a rodent carries the disease, it may spread it through their excrement or salvia. Hantavirus is more commonly spread through the aerosolized virus from the urine, feces, or saliva. However, you may also contract the virus when an infected rodent bites you.

The best way to prevent hantavirus is to avoid contact with rodents or their excrements. If you are cleaning a rodent-infested area, then wear gloves and masks to handle the rodent. Additionally, you should spray the entire area with detergent or diluted bleach before cleaning to avoid the threat of airborne particles as a result of dry sweeping or vacuuming.

Mosquito-borne Encephalitis

Mosquito-borne encephalitis is a disease that can be found anywhere in the United States. The disease is transmitted via mosquito bites. Typically, infected individuals will develop flu-like symptoms for several days.

The only way to prevent this disease is to avoid mosquito bites. Preventative measures against mosquito bites include wearing bug spray and getting rid of any standing water around your home.


Brucellosis can affect domestic animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, horses, and dogs. Additionally, it can infect wild mammals such as rodents, deer, bison, elk, moose, camels, and water buffalos.

The most common way for humans to contract the disease is by consuming undercooked meat or unpasteurized dairy products of an infected animal. But you may also contract the disease by breathing the aerosolized bacteria.

You can prevent this disease by avoiding undercooked meat and unpasteurized products from infected animals.


Tuberculosis is more commonly known as TB. The disease is caused by bacteria which can be easily spread from infected mammals to humans via close contact with the aerosolized bacteria or consumption of unpasteurized dairy products.

High fever, extreme fatigue, weight loss, and heavy night sweats are characteristics of TB. As with all zoonotic diseases, you should contact a medical professional if you suspect an exposure.

Leprosy – Hansen’s Disease

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is caused by bacteria that can spread from human to human. In addition to humans, armadillos are known carriers of the disease.

With fewer than 250 reported cases in the United States each year, this treatable disease is rare. Although it can take years to develop symptoms of the disease, the treatment will last between six months to two years.

As a precaution, it is a good idea to avoid close contact with armadillos.


Anthrax is caused by bacteria which is found naturally in the soil. Grazing animals are at risk of anthrax infection. However, most livestock in the United States is regularly vaccinated against this threat.

Humans can contract the disease by breathing in the spores, getting spores in an open wound, or consuming undercooked meat that is contaminated with spores. One surprising way that you may contract the disease is by handling animal hides or furs of infected animals.

Escherichia Coli – E. coli

E. coli is naturally found in the intestinal tracts of many domestic animals, including cattle, sheep, and goats. In fact, the bacteria is normally part of a healthy human intestinal tract. But some strains of this bacteria can cause disease.

If infected, you may experience diarrhea, fever, cramps, vomiting, and nausea. Unfortunately, the disease can be fatal for young children and older adults.

The best way to prevent infection is to cook meat to safe temperatures and avoid unpasteurized dairy products. Additionally, you should wash your hands regularly before preparing food.

Q Fever

Q Fever is caused by a bacterium that infects domestic animals, including goats, sheep, and cattle. The bacteria can be spread by inhaling spores from an infected animal’s urine, feces, birth products, or milk.

If infected, you may experience headaches, fevers, diarrhea, nausea, chills, abdominal pain, and more. But with early detection, you may be able to prevent the worst of the symptoms with an antibiotic.

You are most likely to contract this disease if you work closely with livestock. Additionally, more than one-third of reported cases were in California, Texas, and Iowa. If you don’t work directly with livestock, avoiding unpasteurized dairy products should prevent the contraction of this disease.


A fungus causes cryptococcosis. The most common way to contract the disease is through inhalation of the fungus. However, pigeon droppings are known to contain the fungus in question. With that, inhaling aerosolized bird droppings could lead to an infection.

Luckily, it is extremely rare to become infected. But if you have a weakened immune system, you may be more at risk.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD)

In 1996, researchers determined that Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) was casually related to BSE, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, more commonly known as ‘mad cow disease.’ Since this discovery, the rare vCJD disease has been associated with humans that frequently consume beef products that are likely to contain mechanically recovered meat or head meat.

Currently, vCJD is extremely rare due to extensive monitoring systems. However, there are one or two cases per every one million people each year.

Raccoon Roundworm – Balyisacaris Infection

Raccoon roundworm can lead to Balyisacaris infection. The disease is transmitted through contact with raccoon feces. If infected, the roundworm can cause extensive and sometimes fatal neurological damage. Early treatment is key to preventing a fatal outcome.

In order to avoid the disease, avoid contact with raccoons. If you are in an area with known raccoon activity, frequent handwashing is the best preventative. It is always a good idea to work with a professional if you are dealing with a raccoon infestation.

Colorado Tick Fever

Colorado Tick Fever (CTF) is a viral disease caused by the bite of an infected Rocky Mountain wood tick. If infected, you will likely experience fever, chills, headaches, body aches, and fatigue. Colorado Tick Fever is rarely life-threatening.

The only real way to prevent CTF is to avoid tick bites. You can use permethrin to treat your boots and clothing to repel ticks if you are in a heavily wooded area. Additionally, it is smart to check for ticks within two hours of returning from the outdoors.


Tularemia can be spread by ticks and deer fly bites. Additionally, tularemia can be transmitted via contact with infected animals, including rabbits, hares, rodents, and domestic cats.

You can prevent this disease by avoiding tick and deer fly bites. Beyond that, use gloves to handle any potentially infected animals.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

As the name suggests, two of the most pronounced symptoms of Rocky Moutain Spotted Fever are a fever and rash. Infected ticks transmit the disease via bites. With that, the only way to prevent the illness is to prevent tick bites.

Relapsing Fever

Ticks or lice can cause relapsing fever.

Typically, tick-borne relapsing fever occurs when humans are sleeping in rodent-infested dwellings. The ticks live within rodent burrows and usually feed on the rodents while sleeping. But if there are humans present, the tick may leave the rodent nest to feed on a sleeping human.

If you own a cabin or swelling with a rodent infestation, then contact a professional to remove the rodents. With the removal of the rodents, the ticks should be taken care of as well.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that ensues after a bite from an infected tick. Typically, humans who contract Lyme disease are infected by a nymph, a tiny tick that feeds in the spring and summer months.

In approximately 70% of infected individuals, rash results around the tick bite in a ‘bull’s-eye’. But fever, chills, fatigue, and headaches may also occur. The only way to prevent Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites and regularly check yourself for ticks.


Plague is caused by bacteria that circulates within wild rodent populations with fleas as the carrier. Within the United States, rural and semi-rural rodent populations are especially vulnerable. A few known carriers include rock squirrels, wood rats, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, mice, voles, and rabbits.

You can contract this disease via the bite of an infected tick. Additionally, handling the tissue or body fluids of an infected animal can lead to an infection.

The best preventative strategy is to reduce the rodent population around your home. This can include removing brush, clutter, and possible food supplies for the rodents in your area. If you are handling a potentially infected animal, wear gloves to avoid any flea bites. Finally, dogs and cats should be treated with flea medication to avoid bringing the infected fleas into your home.

Murine Typhus Fever

Murine Typhus Fever is a flea-borne illness that can be found in small mammal populations. Humans that come in regular contact with small mammals are a risk. Known carriers of the disease include opossums, mice, rats, and cats.

As with all flea-borne illnesses, the only way to avoid murine typhus fever is to avoid flea bites. You can do this by medicating your pets against fleas, removing rodents and other small mammal populations from around your home, and wearing gloves when handling stray pets or wild animals.

Rat-bite Fever

Rat-bite fever (RBF) is caused by bacteria found on the teeth and gums of rats. When a rat bites you, an infection may occur. But you can also contract the disease by consuming food that has been contaminated by rat excrement.

You can avoid the disease by avoiding contact with rats. If you have a rat population near your home, clearing clutter and removing food sources can help to reduce the population. Additionally, avoid any food products which may contain rat excrement.


Salmonellosis is a type of bacteria that lives in the intestinal tract of a wide range of animals. Known carriers of Salmonella include reptiles, amphibians, poultry, wild birds, rodents, small mammals, cattle, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, dogs, and cats.

You can avoid salmonellosis by washing your hands after handling any of the animals above. Additionally, it is a good idea to store food properly in order to prevent accidental rodent excrement.


Leptospirosis is spread through the urine of infected animals. The disease spreads through cattle, pigs, horses, dogs, rodents, and other wild animals. Typically, leptospirosis is associated with swimming or wading in contaminated waters. If possible, avoid contact with potentially contaminated waters.


Rickettsialpox is spread through mite bites of infected mice. In most cases, infected individuals experience a rash and fever.

Luckily, Rickettsialpox can be largely avoided by reducing contact with mice. You can reduce mice populations around your home by clearing debris from your yard and eliminating potential food sources.


Histoplasmosis is caused by a fungus that can be found in soil with large amounts of bird or bat droppings. The fungus spores will remain safely in the soil with regular fresh droppings. But as the droppings dry out, a dusty environment will cause the spores to spread. At that point, you can contract histoplasmosis by breathing in the spores.

In order to prevent histoplasmosis, prevent large roosts of bats or birds near your home. If you are cleaning out an old roost, enlist the help of professionals to remove the material safely.


Ornithosis is caused by Chlamydophila psittaci. Birds of all kinds are known carriers of the illness. Humans can contract the disease by inhaling dust that contains the droppings or secretions of infected birds.

Prevention strategies include reducing large bird populations around your home. Additionally, wear protective masks when cleaning old bird droppings.


Psittacosis is also caused by contact with the droppings or secretions of infected birds. Infected individuals may experience fevers and headaches. As with ornithosis, prevention strategies include reducing large bird populations around your home.

Influenza – H1N1

H1N1 is one strain of the influenza virus that humans can contract from contact with infected animals. Although the disease is commonly known as the ‘swine flu’, you can contract the disease from contact with infected pigs or birds. Inhalation of the droppings or excrements of infected animals can cause illness.

The good news is that your annual flu shot should cover yourself against contracting this strain of the virus.

Cercarial Dermatitis – Swimmer’s Itch

Cercarial dermatitis, otherwise known as swimmer’s itch, is a skin rash resulting from an allergic reaction to microscopic parasites. The parasites intend to infect birds and mammals. However, the parasite may burrow into the skin of a human if it comes into contact with it.

As with all allergic reactions, swimmer’s itch symptoms can worsen with repeated exposures. The best way to prevent this rash is to avoid swimming in infested waters.

Zoonotic Diseases: Next Steps

The vast majority of these zoonotic diseases are relatively uncommon in the United States. However, close proximity to a nuisance wildlife population can dramatically increase your risk of contracting one of these diseases.

If you are concerned about any particular critter that is too close for comfort, take action by working with a professional to remove the potential problem. 

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