Ground Squirrel Diseases

Zoonotic Diseases are diseases that can pass from animals to people. There are several avenues through which this can happen. Some of the most common methods of transmission include: Fecal-oral, respiratory, direct contact, penetrating wound, and vector-borne diseases.

The following are diseases that can be transmitted from ground squirrels to people. Understanding these diseases and how they are  transferred can help you avoid exposure.


(Yersinia pestis)

Plagueinfected blood is transmitted between animals through fleas. When plague passes between rodents, such as squirrels and prairie dogs, it’s referred to as sylvatic plague. In humans, it is known as bubonic. Plague within a rodent species can potentially cross into the human population, most often through flea bites.

Not all rodents are infected with plague, but it is always important to take precautions when you or your pets are around rodent habitats.

To protect yourself:

– Eliminate nesting places for rodents around your home

– Avoid picking up or touching dead animals

– Wear gloves if you must handle sick or dead animals

– Use insect repellent to prevent flea bites

– Protect your pets, treat cats and dogs for fleas regularly and keep them away from rodent habitats, such as prairie dog colonies

Lyme Disease

(Vector-borne Illness)

Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an inflammatory disorder caused by the Borrelia bacterium. Lyme is transmitted to humans through the bites of black-legged (deer) ticks. Lone star ticks may also be vectors. 

The tick typically needs to be attached to the body for 24 hours or longer for the bacteria to transfer from the tick to the host. You cannot get Lyme diseases from animals or other people. 

If you suspect a tick has been attached for nearly 24 hours, you should remove it carefully and place the tick in a container to be tested. 

In most people, the first symptom is a skin lesion that forms where the tick was attched. This usually appears within 1 to 2 weeks. If you notice this or accompanying flu like symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.

The sooner you begin treating Lyme disease, the less likely your symptoms are to become severe. 

Tick-borne Illness Prevention

– Avoid tick infested areas when possible (tall grass and dense vegetation)

– Wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easy to see and remove

-Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Tuck your pant legs into your socks

– Apply tick repellents, but use sparingly to avoid prolonged or excessive exposure

– Apply permethrin to clothing

– Avoid sitting down amongst or brushing against vegetation when on trails

– Always check body and clothing during and after being outdoors