Squirrel Diseases and Health Risks

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Are Squirrels A Health Risk To Humans?
Contrary to popular belief squirrels do not pose much of a health risk to humans. Anecdotal evidence may suggest that humans can catch rabies from squirrels, but, this is not confirmed by any reputable research. One of the ways squirrels may be a health risk is because of their droppings. In common with other rodents squirrels take a spray approach with both their feces and urine which may pose the risk of salmonella infection to anyone coming into contact with it. Once you have successfully dealt with your squirrel infestation it is essential that you undertake a deep clean of the whole area used by the rodents - this may also involve replacing any insulation materials.

The primary squirrel health risk is linked to ticks and fleas which squirrels tend to be infested with. Ticks carry the danger of tick fever and, once carried into your home by squirrels, may also infest your household pets. Fleas are also associated with squirrels and may also take up residence in your family pet - and once a flea or tick infestation has begun it is notoriously difficult to get rid of as these microscopic insects take up residence in carpets, soft furnishings and furniture.

Although any warm-blooded mammal (that's all mammals, by the way) can get rabies, some animals just aren't really very susceptible, nor are they common vectors of the disease (likely to spread it). Squirrels are such an animal. They don't really get rabies much, and there are no known cases of rabies transmission to people or pets. Read more about Do all squirrels have rabies? You can also read about Do squirrels bite?

Recognizing Squirrel Poop Types
Some people have said that having squirrels in the attic cannot be such a horrible problem. While there are pests that can cause more damage, you should not minimize the potential risks that squirrels can have on you and your family. Of course there are risks to the actual structure of your home, and there are also health risks. Most people would think that the main health risk from squirrels is rabies, but the truth is that the worst problems that you can have will have to do with their feces. So how do you recognize squirrel poop types?

Recognizing the poop is important because it lets you know which traps to use. The most common squirrels that can cause you a problem are the red and the gray squirrel. The main difference between their poops is the size; they will both leave droppings that look to be the same shape (about the shape of rice). You recognize the different squirrel poop types because the gray squirrel is a bit larger than the red squirrel. That means that their poop is longer. The Flying squirrel's dropping are pretty close to the grey one's and they will all have a look that is pretty similar to wild rice.

What Can You Get With Squirrel Dung?
Squirrel droppings can be a source of Leptospirosis and salmonella. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection which can manifest as a mild flu- like illness characterized by headache, aches and pains along with chills. This mild form of the disease is the most common. However if the condition becomes more serious then life threatening symptoms may develop including organ failure and internal bleeding. Mild doses of leptospiros can be treated with antibiotics but more severe cases my require hospital admission. This infection is a typical incidence of what you can get with squirrel dung.

Salmonella is a well known disease commonly defined as food poisoning; it will present with sickness and diarrhea and in mild doses may be no more than an inconvenience however, as with letptospirosis live threatening complications can occur especially in the elderly or very young. It is possible that contracting salmonella my also require hospitalisaton. The best possible way to avoid any risk of infection from any animal dung is to ensure that the highest level of hygiene id maintained at all times. It is easy to avoid the risk of infection by a strict regime of hand washing. There as been some suggestion that so-called ‘mad cow disease' has been contracted from squirrels but the evidence is anecdotal at best.

Worried About Squirrel Smell Removal? Dead Animals Can Be Dangerous
If you see a dead squirrel in your yard and you have no idea how it died, you may be safer if you do not touch it yourself. You can call the "County Department of Public Works" or "County Department of Animal Care and Control" and they will send someone to your house to pick up the cadaver. Your phone book is usually the best guide on whom to call for this purpose.

In some instances, you may not see the animal but you will surely be able to smell it if it is close enough. If this happens on a weekend and you cannot reach anyone from your county to pick up the animal, you may have to do it yourself. You definitely want to be rid of it sooner than the next work day if you have children and pets roaming on your property or if you have guests over for a pic-nic in your backyard. Since you don't know what killed the squirrel, you have to assume it carries a contagious disease. Wear protective clothing and goggles if you remove it yourself. Pick it up with either a shovel or some extension, like those long-handled grippers so that you don't touch it. Then double bag it in plastic bags and put it into an empty metal trash can until the county picks it up.

Is There A Squirrel Disease Masks Can Prevent
The ‘pox virus' which is carried by the grey squirrel has decimated the indigenous population of red squirrels. The squirrel pox virus whilst deadly for red squirrels is harmless to greys. This means that as the grey squirrels pass the pox virus around then they are also responsible for wiping out the red squirrel population - and may in fact completely replace that population within 15 years. There is currently no other solution to this problem other than trapping and killing the grey squirrels in order to protect the red population until a vaccine is developed.

Squirrels which eat at feeding stations have been found to contract coccidiosis - a parasite which lives in the gut, this is due to bad hygiene around the feeders, therefore if you have a squirrel feeder and are hoping to protect the endangered red squirrel population the feeder needs to be regularly cleaned. Whilst squirrels often carry a variety of parasites generally they cause little harm or discomfort to the animal, however both squirrel pox virus and coccidiosis have severe and usually fatal effects. Generally speaking, those diseases and parasites which are a threat to squirrels pose no such threat to humans. However if you have to remove any dead animal or fecal matter then it is wise to do so carefully and hygienically in order to avoid any possible risk of infection. Click here for more information about squirrel feces in an attic or home. Click here for more information about squirrel urine and proper cleanup. Read About Squirrels for biology info.

Read about Is it safe to handle a squirrel with bare hands?
How do you know if you have flying squirrels in your attic?
About flying squirrel
Can a Flying Squirrel actually fly?
How to find and remove a dead squirrel in a house
What diseases do squirrels carry?
Why do squirrels die inside houses or attics?

Go back to the Squirrels in the Attic home page.

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