Health Hazards caused by wild animals

While many people will enjoy observing urban and rural wild life, one should excercise extreme caution and avoid any and all physical contact. Even animals you wouldn't normally associate with wildlife, such as stray cats, carry significant health risks and should not be handled without proper protection.

Histoplasmosis and Cleanup of Bird, Bat, Rodent and Animal Feces

What is histoplasmosis?
Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection that affects the lungs and may occasionally invade other parts of the body. It is an uncommon disease. In 1999, there were 15 cases reported among New York City residents (rate of 0.2 cases per 100,000 persons).

Who gets histoplasmosis?
Anyone can get histoplasmosis. It is recognized more often in immuno compromised individuals, such as AIDS patients.

Birds, bats, cats, rats, skunks, opossum, foxes, and other animals can get histoplasmosis and may have a role in spreading the disease.

How is histoplasmosis spread?
The disease is acquired by inhaling the spore stage of the fungus. Outbreaks may occur in groups with common exposures to bird or bat droppings or recently disturbed, contaminated soil found in bird coops, caves, etc. Person-to-person spread of histoplasmosis is highly unlikely.

What are the symptoms of histoplasmosis?
Symptoms vary from mild to severe, ranging from a flu-like illness to serious lung infections. In immuno compromised patients, the disease may spread to the bone marrow, lungs, liver, and lymph nodes.

How soon after infection do symptoms appear?
Symptoms may appear within 5 to 18 days (usually 10 days) after exposure. However, most people do not experience any symptoms.

Does past infection with the fungus make a person immune?
Infection usually results in increased protection against repeat infection, although the immunity is not complete.

How is histoplasmosis diagnosed?
Histoplasmosis is diagnosed by isolating the fungus from body fluids or tissues, visualizing the fungus under the microscope, or by an antibody test.

What is the treatment for histoplasmosis?
Specific treatments, such as amphotericin B, are available for patients with severe illness.

How can histoplasmosis be prevented?
Minimize exposure to dust in contaminated and enclosed environments, such as bird roosting areas and their surrounding soil. Use a protective mask and spray the area with water to minimize exposure to dust.


Baylisascaris procyonis (Roundworm)
The roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis, does not cause clinical disease in the raccoon host but can cause severe or fatal encephalitis in humans (and other animals). The larvae of B. procyonis have a noted tendency to invade the brain and eye, causing what is referred to as "neural larva migrans" and "ocular larva migrans". To understand risk of transmission, it is important to understand the life cycle of the parasite in the raccoon. Initially, raccoons become infected with B. procyonis either by accidentally eating eggs from the soil or by ingesting intermediate hosts (rodents, rabbits, birds) already infected with larvae. Adult worms then develop in the intestinal tract of the raccoon and produce millions of eggs per day, which are shed in feces. Once outside the body, the eggs become infective in approximately 2 to 4 weeks, depending on environmental conditions such as moisture and temperature. Humans who accidentally ingest soil or who touch other materials contaminated with raccoon feces can subsequently be at risk to develop neural larva migrans.



In recent years, raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, and coyotes have been carriers of rabies. In Southern Canada and throughout most of the U.S. Rabies is a serious viral disease that results in death if untreated. Infected animals may be agitated and aggressive, or fearless and lethargic; normally nocturnal animals who are diseased may roam about fearlessly in daytime. Humans who have contracted rabies may first develop symptoms of pain, tingling, or itching shooting from the bite site (or site of virus entry) and gradually will become extremely ill, developing a variety of symptoms, including high fever, confusion, agitation, and eventually seizures and coma.

A single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii causes a disease known as toxoplasmosis. Although cats (both domestic and wild) are the only species that can shed toxoplasma eggs, many other species, including humans and raccoons, can become infected. Of the more than 60 million people in North America who may be infected with the Toxoplasma parasite, very few have symptoms because a healthy person's immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness. However, for pregnant women, their unborn child, and individuals who have compromised immune systems, a Toxoplasma infection may result in severe damage to the brain, eyes, or other organs.


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