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Can Squirrel Diseases Transmit to Humans?

A red squirrel eating a leaf from a tree, unaffected by Squirrel Diseases.

Squirrels, while endearing creatures, can be carriers of several diseases which are potentially harmful to humans. This comprehensive guide unpacks the major diseases that squirrels can transmit to humans, explores the parasites they harbour, and provides effective strategies to prevent squirrel-related diseases.

Diseases Squirrels Carry

Squirrel

Squirrels are reservoirs for a myriad of diseases, but only a handful pose serious threats to humans. The most notable ones include tularemia, typhus, plague, and ringworm.

Tularemia is an infectious disease that presents with flu-like symptoms. If untreated, it can be lethal. Typhus, similarly, manifests with fever and other influenza-like symptoms. Left untreated, typhus can cause serious complications.

Plague, although rare, is another disease potentially carried by squirrels. Manifestations of plague mimic the flu and, in its absence of treatment, it can result in death. Lastly, ringworm, a fungal infection, is frequently transmitted via direct contact with infected squirrels.

While all mammals can contract rabies, it’s worth noting that cases of rabid squirrels are exceedingly rare.

Squirrel Diseases: Tulameria

Tularemia, also known as “rabbit fever,” is a rare but serious infection caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. It is typically found in animals, especially rodents, rabbits, and hares, and can be transmitted to humans through various means, such as tick and deer fly bites, skin contact with infected animals, drinking contaminated water, inhaling contaminated aerosols, or laboratory exposure[2][3][5]. The disease can cause a range of symptoms, including fever, skin ulcers, swollen glands, and in severe cases, pneumonia and systemic infection. Tularemia can be treated with antibiotics, and early treatment is recommended to prevent complications[3][4]. While there is no vaccine available for tularemia in the United States, steps to prevent the infection include using insect repellent, wearing gloves when handling sick or dead animals, and avoiding mowing over dead animals[5]. If someone suspects exposure to tularemia, it is important to seek medical attention promptly[3].

Citations:
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tularemia
[2] https://www.columbia-lyme.org/tularemia
[3] https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/tularemia/faq.asp
[4] https://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/emergency-preparedness-response/public-health-care-system-preparedness/tularemia.html
[5] https://www.cdc.gov/tularemia/index.html

Squirrel Diseases: Typhus

Typhus is a group of acute infectious diseases caused by rickettsia or orientia bacteria, which are spread to humans by infected mites, fleas, or lice. There are three main types of typhus: murine typhus, epidemic typhus, and scrub typhus. Symptoms typically include fever, headache, and rash, and the disease can lead to serious complications if left untreated. Typhus can be diagnosed through blood tests and is treated with antibiotics such as doxycycline. Prevention measures include basic hygiene, using insect repellent, and avoiding contact with animals known to carry the disease, such as rats and flying squirrels[1][3][4].

Citations:
[1] https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-typhus
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhus
[3] https://www.britannica.com/science/typhus
[4] https://www.cdc.gov/typhus/epidemic/index.html
[5] https://www.cdc.gov/typhus/index.html

Squirrel Diseases: Plague

Plague can be carried by squirrels, especially ground squirrels, and can be transmitted to humans through various means. The disease is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis and can be contracted by humans and household animals through bites from infected fleas and by direct contact with blood or tissues of infected animals. Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden high fever, chills, headache, and nausea. Plague can be effectively treated with antibiotics if detected early. To prevent plague, it is important to avoid contact with rodents and their fleas, and to keep pets away from rodents and their burrows[1][4][5]. If someone suspects exposure to plague, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly.

Citations:
[1] http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/acd/docs/Facts%20Plague.pdf
[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/bubonic-plague-squirrels-colorado-black-death-china-mongolia-a9625426.html
[3] https://abcnews.go.com/US/squirrel-tests-positive-bubonic-plague-colorado/story?id=71769840
[4] https://smithspestmanagement.com/blog/post/bubonic-plague-ground-squirrels-in-california/
[5] https://www.edcgov.us/County%20Press%20Releases/Pages/chipmunks_and_squirrels_can_carry_plague_-_caution_advised.aspx

Ringworm

Squirrels can transmit ringworm to humans. Ringworm is a skin and scalp disease caused by fungi and can be spread by touching an infected animal’s skin or hair. Squirrels infected with ringworm may show round bald patches. It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect exposure to ringworm from squirrels. Preventative measures include washing hands after handling animals with ringworm, wearing gloves and long sleeves when handling infected animals, and disinfecting areas the infected animal has spent time in, including surfaces and bedding[3][5].

Citations:
[1] https://www.jstor.org/stable/3754402
[2] https://www.skedaddlewildlife.com/location/milwaukee/blog/squirrels-transmit-diseases-humans/
[3] https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/ringworm.html
[4] https://web.extension.illinois.edu/askextension/thisQuestion.cfm?AskSiteID=90&ThreadID=13624&catID=213
[5] https://www.orkincanada.ca/blog/squirrel-diseases/

A Tangle of Threats: Parasites and Disease

Apart from directly transmitting diseases, squirrels act as hosts to several parasites which can cause serious illnesses in humans. Fleas, ticks, and mites are commonly found on squirrels and can easily transmit diseases to humans and pets alike.

Among the diseases these parasites can spread include Lyme disease, a bacterial infection spread by ticks causing fever, headache, and fatigue. Encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a serious tick-borne illness characterized by fever, headache, and rash, are also linked to squirrel parasites.

Squirrel Pox

Squirrel pox is a viral disease that is usually fatal to red squirrels. Grey squirrels are carriers of the infection and can spread the disease to red squirrels. The virus causes skin ulcers, lesions, and scabs in red squirrels, and infected animals often become lethargic, with a mortality rate of untreated infected red squirrels in the wild appearing to be 100%. The virus is often carried by grey squirrels from North America, which rarely die from the disease, as they have developed immunity to it. The virus can spread through contact with infected lesions or contaminated crusts, and it can also be carried by mosquitoes. Most poxviruses are highly resistant to drying, which allows crusts to remain infectious for long periods. The disease is characterized by varying sizes and numbers of wart-like growths or fibromas on the skin of squirrels, and it is caused by a poxvirus called squirrel fibroma virus. The virus spreads between animals through body fluids and shared parasites, so it is important to keep red and grey squirrels apart to prevent the spread of the disease. There is no known risk to humans from squirrel pox, but it is important to practice good hygiene when handling any animal.

Source

Prevention is Better than Cure: Avoiding Squirrel Diseases

Ensuring the health and safety of both homeowners and their pets requires effective squirrel prevention strategies. Sealing entry points such as windows, doors, and roof holes, in addition to screening vents and chimneys, can keep squirrels from entering your home.

However, prevention is not just about making your home squirrel-proof. Engaging the expertise of pest removal professionals is a recommended course of action for comprehensive protection against the diseases squirrels carry.

How to Squirrel Proof your Home

To squirrel-proof your home, you can take several preventive measures to keep these pests from entering and causing damage. Here are some effective methods:

  1. Inspect and Seal Entry Points: Conduct a thorough inspection of the exterior of your home to identify and seal any potential entry points such as gaps in the siding, roof eaves, and around windows and doors[1][2].
  2. Install Barriers and Covers: Use metal hardware cloth, sheet metal, and expanding foam to cover and seal vulnerable areas such as roof eaves, attic vents, and chimneys[1][2].
  3. Trim Trees and Use Squirrel-Proof Feeders: Keep tree branches trimmed away from your home to prevent squirrels from accessing the roof, and use squirrel-proof bird feeders to limit indirect attractants from your property[2][5].
  4. Use Repellents: Consider using commercial capsaicin-based squirrel repellents or homemade cayenne pepper repellents to deter squirrels from approaching your home[1].
  5. Seek Professional Help: If the infestation is severe, consider contacting The Bugman Pest Control to inspect your home, identify entry points, and provide effective preventive measures and treatments.

By implementing these methods, you can significantly reduce the risk of squirrels entering your home and causing damage.

Citations:
[1] https://todayshomeowner.com/pest-control/guides/how-to-keep-squirrels-from-damaging-your-home/
[2] https://allaboutants.net/6-ways-to-squirrel-proof-your-home/
[3] https://www.thespruce.com/getting-squirrels-out-of-your-house-2656316
[4] https://www.reddit.com/r/pestcontrol/comments/16307v1/how_can_i_squirrel_proof_my_attic_seems_the_pest/
[5] https://www.skedaddlewildlife.com/services/squirrels/prevent-and-protect/how-to-keep-squirrels-out-of-my-house/

Enlist Expert Help: Engage Professional Pest Control Services

When it comes to safeguarding your health and your home against squirrel-borne diseases, consulting with pest removal experts is paramount. Professionals can guide you through the process, ensuring that all potential squirrel entry points are well-guarded, and any resident squirrels are safely and humanely removed.

In conclusion, understanding the diseases that squirrels can carry is crucial in preventing potential health threats. While squirrels might seem harmless at first glance, the diseases they can transmit, either directly or through the parasites they carry, warrant careful consideration. A combination of vigilance, effective home sealing, and professional pest control can keep these diseases at bay.

Remember, your safety and the health of those around you is paramount. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help when dealing with squirrels and other potentially disease-bearing pests.