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.

Squirrels are not known to experience illnesses harmful to people, but they do carry ticks, which can transmit diseases to you and your pets. Understanding these diseases and how they are transferred can help you avoid exposure.

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. 

Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is caused by ehrlichia bacteria and is transmitted primarily by the Lone Star tick.

Ticks feed on blood, latching onto a host and feeding until they’re swollen to many times their normal size. During feeding, ticks that carry disease-producing bacteria can transmit the bacteria to a healthy host. Or they may pick up bacteria themselves if the host, such as a white-tailed deer or a coyote, is infected.

Usually, to get ehrlichiosis, you must be bitten by an infected tick. The bacteria enter your skin through the bite and eventually make their way into your bloodstream.

Before bacteria can be transmitted, a tick must be attached and feeding for at least 24 hours. An attached tick with a swollen appearance may have been feeding long enough to have transmitted bacteria. Removing ticks as soon as possible may prevent infection.

It’s also possible that ehrlichiosis may be transmitted through blood transfusions, from mother to fetus, and through direct contact with an infected, slaughtered animal.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Ticks are the natural hosts of the disease, serving as both reservoirs and vectors of R. rickettsii. The most common vector is the American dog tick. Several other species also carry the disease, however.

Ticks transmit the bacteria primarily by their bites. The tick must be attached 4 to 6 hours before infection is possible. Less commonly, infections may occur following exposure to crushed tick tissues, fluids, or tick feces.

Symptoms usually appear within two weeks. You may experience a sudden onset of medium to high fever and other flu-like symptoms. The disguishing symptom is a rash that apears during the second and fith day of the infection.

Early treatment with antibiotics is the most effective against the disease.

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