Avian Influenza

Avian influenza is an infection caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu) viruses. These influenza viruses occur naturally among birds. Wild birds worldwide carry the viruses in their intestines, but usually do not get sick from them. However, avian influenza is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys, very sick and kill them.

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Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease that affects North American cervids (hoofed ruminant mammals, with males characteristically having antlers). The known natural hosts of CWD are mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, and moose. CWD was first identified as a fatal wasting syndrome in captive mule deer in Colorado in the late 1960s and in the wild in 1981. It was recognized as a spongiform encephalopathy in 1978. To date, no strong evidence of CWD transmission to humans has been reported.

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Distemper

Canine and feline distemper are diseases affecting many wild and domestic carnivores. Although both these diseases can cause acute illness and death, canine and feline distemper should not be confused, as they are caused by two distinctly different viral agents.

The following chart indicates the animals which are susceptible to infection by canine and feline distemper.

Family

Canine
Distemper

Feline
Distemper

Canidae
wolf, coyote, fox, domestic dog

Yes

No

Felidae
bobcat, lynx, domestic cat

No

Yes

Procyonidae
raccoon

Yes

Yes

Mustelidae
ferret, mink, weasel, marten, fisher, otter, badger, skunk, wolverine

Yes

Yes
(Mink and possibly skunk and otter)

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Exotic Newcastle Disease

Exotic Newcastle Disease ( END) is a contagious and fatal viral disease affecting all species of birds. END is probably one of the most infectious diseases of poultry in the world. END is so deadly that many birds die without showing any signs of disease. A death rate of almost 100 percent can occur in unvaccinated poultry flocks. Exotic Newcastle can infect and cause death even in vaccinated birds.

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Giardiasis

Giardiasis is an intestinal disorder caused by the protozoan Giardia lamblia. Human infection can occur from ingestion of Giardia cysts in contaminated water, or from contact with an infected individual. Wild animal feces also can be a source of Giardia infection and may contaminate lake and stream water. Symptoms of giardiasis include chronic diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloating and fatigue. Giardiasis is not usually a life threatening disease, and once diagnosed can be effectively treated with medication. To prevent the disease, avoid drinking or accidentally ingesting untreated water.

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Hantavirus

Hantavirus includes a group of viruses that can cause febrile illness in humans, sometimes accompanied by kidney, blood, or respiratory ailments. It can sometimes be fatal. The febrile illness includes fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and lower back pain. Field and commensal rodents are the natural reservoirs for viruses in this group and these viruses are found worldwide. Infected rodents shed viruses in their urine, feces and/or saliva and can remain chronically infected. The contaminated excreta from infected rodents are thought to be the source of virus for aerosol and direct (animal bite) transmission to other rodents and humans.

Human exposure to hantavirus is prevented by avoiding contact with rodents and rodent-infested areas, by controlling rodent populations, and by proper sanitation.

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Histoplasmosis

Histoplasmosis is a respiratory ailment caused by the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum. The fungus can be found in soil with high organic content. Infection occurs when spores of the fungus are inhaled. Histoplasmosis is associated with blackbird and pigeon roosts, bat caves and chicken houses. Excrement from these animals provides an ideal environment for the fungus.

Histoplasmosis infection may take many forms, and symptoms of the disease are highly variable. Most commonly, an infection results in mild respiratory trouble which may go undiagnosed. But severe cases, resembling tuberculosis, also occur. The risk of infection can be reduced by avoiding dust in such areas as bird roosts and the insides of barns, silos, attics and caves inhabited by birds and bats. Any concerns about exposure to Histoplasmosis contact Dr. Jennifer House from the Indiana Health Department at 317-233-7272.

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Any concerns about exposure to Histoplasmosis contact Dr. Jennifer House from the Indiana Health Department at 317-233-7272.

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is caused by the bacterium Leptospira interrogans. It affects a wide variety of wildlife species, including skunks and raccoons. Human cases of leptospirosis usually are transmitted from commensal rodent populations. Infection can occur from direct or indirect contact with the urine of infected animals, either in food or water or on surface areas. In humans, the disease can range from very mild and unnoticeable to serious and life threatening. Symptoms include fever, headaches, weakness and vomiting. Commensal rodent control and proper sanitation are important in reducing the risk of infection.

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Lyme Disease

Lyme disease, first recognized in Old Lyme, Connecticut, is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted by several species of ticks and fleas. The symptoms of Lyme disease are variable, but generally progress through three stages. At first there are "flu-like" symptoms such as fatigue, fever, sore throat, nausea and coughing. According to the Indiana Department of Health, many of those infected develop a small red lesion around the site of the tick or flea bite. As the disease progresses many persons experience recurrent arthritis, usually in the knee and elbow joints.

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Mange

Mange is a skin disease of mammals caused by a tissue-burrowing arthropod, the mange mite. A variety of mange mites exist; the ones most often identified as the cause of mange in Michigan wildlife are Sarcoptes scabiei and Notoedres centrifera. The mites are too small to be seen with the naked eye, but skin changes brought on by infestation can be dramatic. The skin diseases caused by these species of mites are sarcoptic and notoedric mange.

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Monkeypox

Monkeypox is a rare viral disease that occurs mostly in central and western Africa. It is called “monkeypox” because it was first found in 1958 in laboratory monkeys. Blood tests of animals in Africa later found that other types of animals probably had monkeypox. Scientists also recovered the virus that causes monkeypox from an African squirrel. These types of squirrels might be the common host for the disease. Rats, mice, and rabbits can get monkeypox, too. Monkeypox was reported in humans for the first time in 1970.

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Plague

Bubonic plague, the disease responsible for the infamous "Black Death" of the Middle Ages, is still with us today. It is caused by the bacterium Yersenia pestis and can be found in wild rodent and rabbit populations. Fleas transmit plague from animal to animal.

Though human cases of plague are rare, people may be exposed to the disease if they handle infected animals or are bitten by an infected flea. Early symptoms of bubonic plague include fever and swollen lymph nodes, progressing to high fever, confusion and fatigue. Untreated bubonic plague has a relatively high fatality rate, but prompt treatment with tetracycline or other drugs can be effective.

People living in areas where plague occurs can protect themselves by controlling fleas with insecticides and by controlling commensal rodent populations. It is also wise to use insect repellent when outdoors and avoid contact with wild rodents and rabbits.

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Rabies

Rabies, sometimes called "hydrophobia," is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system. Rabies is normally transmitted to humans from the bite of a rabid animal or from the saliva of a rabid animal entering the blood stream through open cuts or scratches. Only warm-blooded animals are susceptible to the rabies virus. Rabid animals cannot always be identified easily. Any animal that seems abnormal in appearance or behavior, acting either overly aggressive or unusually tame, should be avoided. There is the possibility of rabies exposure with any wild animal bite or attack, so if this occurs, Dr. Jennifer House, from the Indiana Department of Health at 317-233-7272, should be contacted. 

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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a serious disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. It can be transmitted to people by several species of ticks, including the lone star tick, American dog tick and brown dog tick. Symptoms of the disease may first appear "flu-like" and include fever, chills and muscle aches. Within several days a characteristic rash appears on the wrists and ankles.

Most often, the source of human infection is a tick bite, but infection can be transmitted from crushed ticks and infected tick feces left on the fur of animals. It is very important to wear rubber gloves when handling ticks and tick infested animals, and to wash hands thoroughly afterward. When outdoors, check frequently for attached ticks and remove them carefully without crushing them or leaving mouth parts in the skin. An infected tick usually must remain attached for at least four (4) hours to transmit the disease.

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Roundworm

The raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) is the common large roundworm or ascarid found in the small intestinal tract of raccoons. Adult worms measure 15 to 20 cm in length and 1 cm in width. They are tan-white in color, cylindrical and taper at both ends.

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Salmonella

The salmonella bacteria are passed through the feces of reptiles, and the bacteria get spread inside cages or tanks. The bacteria also get on the skin of the reptiles. When you or other people touch the reptile or the area where it has been, the bacteria can get on your hands. When you touch your hands to your mouth or prepare food, the bacteria are swallowed and can cause disease. People can spread the bacteria in their feces, too.

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Tularemia

Tularemia, sometimes called "rabbit fever," is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Although tularemia affects many species of wild animals, it is most commonly transmitted to humans from infected rabbits, usually during the skinning process when the bacteria enter the body through open cuts, scratches or sores on the hands. Infection also can occur from eating undercooked meat and from tick and flea bites. Tularemia can be a water-borne disease spread by beavers and muskrats, but this mode of transmission is rare in the southern states.

Symptoms of tularemia infection include fever, infected sores at the point where the bacteria entered the body, and general "flu-like" symptoms. With prompt medical treatment, few cases are fatal. The best defense against infection is to avoid contact with infected animals. Infected rabbits usually appear lethargic and uncoordinated. Internal evidence of infection is the presence of numerous small, white spots on the rabbit's liver and spleen. Gloves should be worn when skinning rabbits.

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West Nile Virus

West Nile is a mosquito-borne virus that was first detected in the United States in 1999. The virus, which causes encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, has been found in Africa, Western Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean region of Europe, and, most recently, in the United States.

Mosquitoes acquire the West Nile virus (WNV) from birds and pass it on to other birds and animals. While humans and horses may be infected by the virus, there is no documentation that infected horses can spread the virus to uninfected horses or other animals. Migrating birds appear to play a role in spreading the disease.

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White-Nose Syndrome

White-nose syndrome is a fatal disease in bats affecting hibernating bats in the northeastern states. Some signs of WNS may be associated with the presence of a white fungus (Geomyces sp.), on nose, wings, ears or tail. Other signs could be abnormal behavior like bats flying outside during the day in temperatures at or below freezing; bats clustered near the entrance of hibernacula; and dead or dying bats on the ground or on buildings, trees or other structures.

If you find sick bats, dead bats, or bats behaving oddly contact your Division of Fish and Wildlife District Wildlife Biologist.

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