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Diseases That Raccoons Can Spread to Humans

By Demi Buckley ; Updated August 14, 2017

Raccons are rather aggressive animals that can transfer diseases to people via bites, scratches and even indirect contact. Because it is not uncommon for us to sometimes encounter these furry animals around our homes, especially at night as they scavenge for food, it is important to take care while in their presence and use common precautions when handling materials they’ve contacted or left behind.

Rabies Virus

The most common disease people acquire from raccoons is rabies. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system in humans, and it can lead to fevers, hallucinations and seizures. If a raccoon carries rabies, the virus is present in its saliva, so infected raccoons can transfer the disease via bites or scratches, as their claws are likely to have come in contact with their mouths. Staying away from raccoons in the wild is always a good idea, but this is especially true if their behavior appears especially aggressive or erratic. Rabies can be deadly, but there are very few confirmed cases of raccoon-acquired rabies that have resulted in human death.

Salmonella

Salmonella bacteria are found in raccoon feces, and humans can contract Salmonella infections as the result of contacting droppings and subsequently ingesting the microorganisms by inadvertently transferring it from the hands to the mouth. These particular bacteria can lay dormant in a dry environment for an extended period of time, and can then become active under favorable conditions. Salmonella poisoning can lead to fever, abdominal pain and severe diarrhea. It can be particularly dangerous to children, the elderly and immunocompromised individuals.

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Roundworm

Raccoons can excrete high numbers of roundworm eggs through their feces. The eggs are light and can become airborne, potentially leading to infections resulting from inhalation. Incidental ingestion can also infect a host. Roundworm parasites can lead to serious health issues in humans as they affect the central nervous system, and can impair the body’s organs, including the brain. The most severe roundworm-related infections can result in vision loss or even comas.

Leptospirosis

The bacterium Leptospira causes the disease Leptospirosis, which infects humans and a host of other animals, including raccoons. They excrete this particular microorganism through their urine; as such, people can become infected by drinking water that has been contaminated with these bacteria. Mild cases of Leptospirosis can result in high fevers, body pain and both vomiting and diarrhea. More serious cases may lead to anemia, meningitis and liver failure.

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