Raccoons, with their distinctive black mask and bushy tails, are fascinating creatures to observe from a distance. However, when these curious nocturnal animals come into close contact with humans, there can be concerns about the potential diseases they may carry. Let’s look at the various diseases raccoons can carry and how you can reduce your risk of exposure.
Rabies is one of the most well-known diseases associated with raccoons. Raccoons are considered a high-risk species for carrying rabies, a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. While not all raccoons have rabies, it’s essential to be cautious when encountering any wild animal, including raccoons.
Symptoms: Raccoons infected with rabies may exhibit erratic or unusual behavior, drooling, aggression, confusion, and difficulty walking.
Risk: Rabies can be transmitted to humans and pets through the saliva of an infected raccoon, typically through a bite or scratch.
Prevention: To reduce the risk of rabies transmission:
- Avoid feeding or approaching raccoons.
- Vaccinate your pets against rabies.
- Secure trash cans to discourage raccoons from rummaging for food.
- Contact animal control if you suspect a rabid raccoon on your property.
2. Roundworm Infection
Raccoons can carry a parasitic infection called Baylisascaris procyonis, which is caused by a roundworm. While infected raccoons may not show symptoms, the eggs they excrete in their feces can pose a significant risk to humans and pets.
Symptoms: In humans, symptoms of Baylisascaris infection may include nausea, fatigue, loss of coordination, and vision problems.
Risk: Infection can occur when individuals accidentally ingest or inhale roundworm eggs, often from contaminated soil, surfaces, or materials where raccoon feces are present.
Prevention: To reduce the risk of Baylisascaris infection:
- Avoid direct contact with raccoon feces.
- Use gloves and proper sanitation practices when cleaning or disposing of raccoon waste.
- Educate children about the dangers of handling raccoon feces.
- Keep pets away from raccoon droppings.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can be transmitted to humans and animals through contact with contaminated water or soil. While raccoons can carry this bacterium, it is essential to note that many other wildlife species can also be carriers.
Symptoms: Symptoms of leptospirosis in humans may include high fever, chills, muscle aches, and jaundice.
Risk: Infection can occur when humans or pets come into contact with water, soil, or objects contaminated with the urine of infected raccoons or other animals.
Prevention: Reducing the risk of leptospirosis involves:
- Avoiding contact with water or soil that may be contaminated with wildlife urine.
- Ensuring pets are vaccinated against leptospirosis.
- Using protective gear when handling potentially contaminated materials.
4. Canine Distemper
Canine distemper is a viral disease that affects a wide range of animals, including raccoons. While it primarily targets domestic dogs, raccoons can act as carriers and potential sources of infection.
Symptoms: Symptoms of distemper in raccoons may include nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, and neurological signs. In dogs, symptoms may vary and can include fever, coughing, nasal discharge, and neurological issues.
Risk: The risk of distemper transmission from raccoons to dogs is higher in areas where the virus is prevalent. It is primarily spread through direct contact.
Prevention: To reduce the risk of distemper infection:
- Ensure your pets are up to date on vaccinations, including distemper.
- Keep your pets on a leash and avoid direct contact with wildlife.
- Consult your veterinarian for specific guidance based on your location.
Giardiasis is an intestinal disease caused by the Giardia parasite. While raccoons can be carriers, it’s important to note that Giardia is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transmitted between animals and humans.
Symptoms: Symptoms of Giardiasis in humans may include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and nausea.
Risk: The risk of Giardia transmission from raccoons to humans is generally low, but it can occur through contact with contaminated water or surfaces.
Prevention: To reduce the risk of Giardia infection:
- Practice good hygiene and handwashing, especially after outdoor activities.
- Use proper water treatment methods when camping or hiking in the wild.
Call the Experts
Raccoons can carry several diseases that have the potential to affect humans and pets. While the risks are relatively low, it’s essential to take precautions when encountering raccoons or areas where they may have been present. Avoid direct contact with raccoons, their waste, and contaminated materials, and practice good hygiene to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
If you suspect a sick raccoon on your property, contact us for support.