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  • Baltimore Educational Article of the Month - Wild animal diseases in Maryland

Wild animal diseases in Maryland

Diseases that wild animals spread can cause serious illness even death to individual animal as well as it significantly affects the pets and human beings too. Wild life species also serve as a natural host for various diseases that can affect humans (zoonoses). Hunters, biologists, field assistants and many other individuals who used to work directly with wildlife face a high risk of getting in to these diseases. Leptospirosis, plague and tularemia are the diseases that are acquired in handling and skinning of rabbits, rodents and carnivores. Human beings use to acquire diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever and Lyme disease. Man is living with animals for eons. Though they are very useful even for our health but they could proof very dangerous if get sick especially the wildlife. Some important diseases are discussed below that can be transmitted to humans and pets from wild animals in Baltimore.

Rabies, also known as ‘hydrophobia’, is a terrible viral disease that affects the central nervous system. Rabies generally transmitted to human beings from the bite the animal carrying germs of rabies. In addition the disease can also be transmitted through the saliva of a rabid animal while entering into the blood stream via open cuts and scratches. Warm-blooded animals are said to be the susceptible to the rabies virus. It is not an easy task to identify the rabid animals. It is possible that the animal may be infected with the disease since long before it shows the symptoms. It is important to note that testing the brain tissues in the laboratory is the only way to prove rabies. Therefore, it is very smart to take precautions. The following symptoms can be found in the rabid animal:

  • 1. Unprovoked aggression: these are furious rabies that attacks anything they see moving or even on inanimate objects.
  • 2. Unusual friendliness; dumb rabies
  • 3. Paralysis, that most of the time starts from the hind legs or throat
  • 4. If transmitted to pets they used to fall, stumble, appear uncoordinated or disoriented or wander aimlessly
  • 5. Vocalization that may range from chattering to shrill screaming
  • 6. Raccoons use to walk as pavement is very hot
Foxes, raccoons, skunks are categorized as furious rabies whereas bats are listed in dumb rabies. Rabid Maryland bats may be found on ground and are usually unable to fly. This could create a high risk for children as they are more keen about handling the wild animals as compare to adults.

Bubonic plague is a disease that is said to be responsible for the infamous Black Death of the Middle Ages and it is still with us today. It is caused by a bacterium named Yersenia pestis which can be found in the wild rabbits and rodent populations. Fleas are responsible for transmitting plague from an animal to another. There are fewer cases for human plague. They can get the disease it they are bitten by an infected flea or if they handle the infected animal. Early symptoms of the disease include fever and swollen lymph nodes then these symptoms progress to high grade fever, fatigue and confusion. This may cause a high fatality rate if untreated but proper treatment along with tetracycline and other drugs can be affective. People must take full precautionary measure if they live in the areas where plague is common. They must control the fleas with the help of insecticides and commensal rodent population must also be checked. Using insect repellent may also be beneficial.

Hantavirus consists of a group of viruses that have ability to produce febrile illness in human beings, sometimes accompanied by blood, kidney or respiratory ailments. Sometimes it becomes fatal. The febrile illness includes headache, nausea, lower back pain, muscle ache, fever and vomiting. Commensal and field rodents are natural reservoirs for viruses in this group; these viruses could be found worldwide. Viruses are shed by the infected rodents through their feces, urine or/and saliva and can remain chronically infected. Infected rodent’s contaminated excreta are considered to be the source of virus for direct (animal bite) as well as aerosol transmission to humans and other rodents. Human should prevent the exposure to Hantavirus by avoid contacting rodents and areas that are rodent infested, through proper sanitation and by controlling rodent population.

Feline and canine distemper are the diseases affecting several wild as well as domestic carnivores. Both the diseases are caused by two entirely different viral agents therefore they should not be confused. Both the diseases can cause serious illness that can lead to even death. Young ones are more susceptible to infections. Symptoms of canine distemper are as follow:
  • Fever
  • Nose and eye discharge
  • Anorexia
  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Squinting
  • Cough
  • Loss of tooth enamel
  • Paralysis
  • Deterioration of mental and motor skills
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