Prairie Dog 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 prairie dogs to people. Understanding these diseases and how they are  transferred can help you avoid exposure.

Plague

(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

Tularemia

(Penetrating Wound Transmission)

Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. 

The bacterium is typically spread by ticks (especially the lone star tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, and American dog tick), deer flies, or contact with infected animals, including rabbits, ground squirrels, muskrats, mice, and beavers. It may also be spread by drinking contaminated water or breathing in contaminated dust (i.e. if mowing or doing yard work disturbs the habitat of an infected animal).

It does not spread directly between people. Diagnosis is by blood tests or cultures of the infected site.

To avoid contracting Tularemia:

– Avoid bites by arthropods and wear insect repellent

– Use rubber gloves when skinning or handling animals; especially rabbits

– Do not drink, bathe, swim, or work in untreated water where wild animals are known to be infected

– Cook the meat of wild rabbits and rodents thoroughly before eating it

Raccoon Roundworm

(Fecal-oral Transmission)

Baylisascaris infection is caused by a roundworm found mainly in raccoons. This roundworm can infect people as well as a variety of other animals, including dogs. Human infections are rare, but can be severe if the parasites invade the eye (ocular larva migrans), organs (visceral larva migrans) or the brain (neural larva migrans).

Roundworm can cause blindness, brain damage, and death. Raccoons are not the only carrier of this disease, but they are the definitive host. Avoid disturbing feces and items contaminated with feces. Always wash your hands. Good hygeinie is key to preventing the spread of such parasites.

If you suspect you may have been exposed to this disease, seek medical attention immediately. Doctors us an anti-parasitic drug to treat larva migrans infections.