Raccoons: A Carrier Of Harmful Diseases
Raccoons are obnoxious animals, aside from harming your property by pulling insulation to build nests in your attic and ripping holes in the exterior of your home to obtain access, they’re also carriers of zoonotic diseases, which are dangerous to both humans and pets. These diseases can be contracted by scratches or bites and through feces, urine, and saliva. If you detect raccoon activity near your home, be cautious of your surroundings and avoid contact with the animals, as well as their waste or any polluted areas. If you have any water gathered on your property that raccoons have access to, for example, don’t let your dogs drink from it. That kind of common sense will go a long way toward keeping your entire family secure.
Even though most of these diseases have very low human occurrence rates, it’s crucial to be aware of the related dangers and warning symptoms.
What Raccoon Diseases Are Dangerous To Humans?
Raccoons have adapted to city life and can be found in parks, neighborhoods, and backyards. Raccoons can carry diseases, including raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris), leptospirosis, and rabies, transmitted to humans and pets. They can also injure people and pets by scratching and biting them.
Diseases are typically carried by wildlife and can be spread through their droppings, urine, or parasites. Some of the most prevalent diseases carried by raccoons are listed here. The symptoms and descriptions listed below are simply meant to serve as a guide to help you be aware. Only a medical professional can give an accurate diagnosis and treatment if you develop symptoms:
The intestinal raccoon roundworm Baylisascaris can infect humans and several other animals. Raccoons create community latrines, which are areas where they drop fresh feces regularly, which are very likely to contain roundworm eggs. The eggs mature into the infectious form about 2-4 weeks after being put in the environment and live in the soil for several years. If people ingest these infectious eggs, the larvae (the immature stage of worms) hatch from the eggs and travel into the body’s organs, causing significant sickness.
Infection symptoms vary depending on how many eggs are consumed and where the larvae migrate (travel) in the body, such as the liver, brain, eye, or spinal cord. Tiredness, lack of coordination, loss of muscle control, blindness, and coma are all possible symptoms. Infection symptoms usually appear after approximately a week.
If a person suspects they have swallowed raccoon feces-contaminated dirt or other items, get medical attention right away. Make sure your health care practitioner is aware of your worry about recent raccoon feces exposure. Infection and serious sickness can be avoided with early treatment. The most vulnerable are young children who play outside and people with developmental disabilities.
In the United States, Europe, and Japan, Baylisascaris procyonis has been discovered. In South America, there has been some indication of infection in animals. Infected raccoons have been identified in various locations across the United Areas, particularly in the mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and West Coast states.1Source
Leptospirosis is a disease caused by bacteria called Leptospira, which can be found in the urine of rats, raccoons, and other wild and domestic animals. Leptospirosis can affect humans as well as a variety of animals, including dogs. When water or soil contaminated with the urine of sick animals comes into contact with their skin, nose, mouth, throat, or eyes or is swallowed, people and animals can become infected. Canines are more susceptible to infection because they frequently drink or lick contaminated groundwater; infected dogs can get seriously ill or die. Some people infected with leptospirosis will experience no symptoms at all, while others will become quite sick. Leptospirosis can produce flu-like symptoms, severe head, and muscle aches, a high temperature, and significant liver and kidney damage in some people.
The bacteria can enter the body through the skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, and mouth), particularly if a cut or scratch has broken the skin. Infection can also be spread by drinking polluted water. Leptospirosis outbreaks are usually induced by contact with polluted water, such as flooding. Transmission from one person to another is uncommon.2Source
Raccoons are the most commonly reported animal species infected with rabies in the United States, particularly in the eastern and southeastern regions. Although no rabies cases have been identified in raccoons in Washington, we cannot be positive that rabies does not exist in raccoons or that it will not arise in the future. A health care practitioner should evaluate all raccoon bites and scratches and report to Public Health if there are concerns about possible rabies exposure (i.e. if the raccoon appeared sick or acted unusually). Rabies can be prevented in humans by administering rabies vaccines soon after exposure. Animals that have been exposed to raccoons should be reported to the Public Health Veterinarian.
More than 90% of recorded cases of rabies in animals in the United States occur in wildlife. Raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes are the most prevalent wild species in the United States that carry rabies. In this country, contact with infected bats is the major cause of human rabies mortality; bats infect 7 out of 10 Americans who die of rabies. Although a bat scratch or bite, which can be as little as the top of a pencil eraser, may go unnoticed, such contact can still spread rabies.3Source
Salmonella is a prevalent food poisoning bacteria. Vomiting, fever, and diarrhea are some of the symptoms. Without therapy, these symptoms usually go away in 3 to 8 days. Severe cases, on the other hand, may necessitate antibiotics or hospitalization. Salmonella infection is most commonly acquired from contaminated food, although it can also be acquired by poor sanitation from infected mammals, birds, and reptiles, typically through fecal-oral transfer. Salmonella can also infect pet mammals and birds, and reptiles and amphibians can carry it without showing symptoms.
Salmonella is responsible for considerably more diseases than you might think. Around 30 additional patients with Salmonella illnesses are not reported for every person who has a Salmonella sickness confirmed by a laboratory test. Because most food poisoning patients don’t go to the doctor or submit a sample to a lab, we never find out what bacteria caused their illness.4Source
Tularemia, often known as rabbit fever, is caused by Francisella tularensis, which is transferred by ticks and contact with infected mammalian tissue. In humans, tularemia is challenging to diagnose and might be confused for other diseases. Most patients recover, but antibiotic therapy can take several weeks. Tularemia is not usually observed in cats and dogs, but when it does, it can lead to organ failure if not treated promptly and aggressively. Several other diseases must usually be cleared out before tularemia may be diagnosed.
Vaccination is currently being evaluated. Raccoons have been proven to carry tularemia internally, and by tick transmission; however, it is unclear how tularemia affects them. Humans can become infected by drinking contaminated water, being bitten by a disease-carrying bug, handling animal carcasses, eating raw game, or inhaling dried infective animal tissue. Raccoons could be used to detect the presence of tularemia in the environment.
Raccoons’ habitat near human activity suggests the likelihood of direct human exposure. Human infection has been linked to the practice of skinning raccoons. Exposed skunks and raccoons feeding near people’s homes may leave infectious excreta, which could serve as fomites for the tularemia outbreak, which is thought to be aerogenic.5Source
Edwardsiella tarda produces Edwardsiella septicemia in humans and wildlife, a rare but potentially fatal infection. E. tarda has been detected in animals that appear to be in good health, such as raccoons. Many fish, reptiles, mammals, and birds have E. tarda in their intestines, and it is spread through infected animal excrement.
The transmission of the disease is aided by exposure to contaminated water and fish. The majority of documented animal instances have come from species that are intimately related to water. Gastroenteritis is a common side effect of Edwardsiella septicemia.
Antimicrobial treatment is available; however, a recent literature analysis indicated that humans have a 44 percent mortality rate even with treatment. Edwardsiella septicemia is still uncommon, and the causes are unknown.6Source
Giardiasis (also known as beaver fever) is a parasitic infection spread through the feces of infected people or animals. It’s also the most prevalent disease transmitted to people by wild animals. Infectious cysts can be found in the feces of wild animals, especially raccoons, and can be eaten. It is usually caused by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces or by consuming contaminated food or water. However, it is occasionally passed directly from person to person or animal to animal.
Symptoms normally appear 1-3 weeks after the infection is contracted and can continue up to 6 weeks. Nausea, cramping, diarrhea, and dehydration are some of the symptoms. Between 2012 and 2017, 111 giardiasis outbreaks were documented by public health officials in 26 states, resulting in 760 primary cases, 28 hospitalizations, 48 emergency department visits, and no deaths.7Source
The chance of humans coming into touch with raccoons and other adaptable species increases as development and habitat fragmentation increase. Raccoons adapt quickly to urban settings, increasing the risk of raccoon-borne diseases spreading to humans and pets.
Humans, wildlife, zoo animals, cattle, and pets are all at risk from raccoon-borne diseases. We can prevent these dangers and be proactive in our treatment with knowledge and easy procedures. The majority of issues emerge when humans unwittingly or purposefully attract raccoons. Raccoons may coexist with humans as an intriguing element of the urban ecology if they are treated with respect and prudence.
We can take the most practical steps by remaining watchful of any activity and using common sense. Check your attic for their presence regularly, and call a wildlife expert if you fear they’ve broken into your home. Raccoon removal should only be undertaken by professionals, as they offer a variety of professional services, including humane raccoon trapping.