Although Cute, Raccoons Can Carry a Number of Infectious Diseases
Raccoons have become one of the most-seen wildlife types around suburban neighborhoods and even bigger cities.
They’re most commonly found outdoors in woody areas near a water source, but as the human population continues to build homes and businesses by utilizing deforestation, raccoons have become more acclimated and somewhat reliant on humans for nourishment.
Because of this acclimation, raccoons can be found in the most undesirable places.
Case and point, a video of a man in a San Francisco McDonald’s has surfaced on the internet showing him sitting at a table with, what appeared to be, a lifeless raccoon.
While this was an alarming event for the people involved, the staff proceeded with caution and closed the restaurant for thorough cleaning and sanitizing.
"Staff cleaned and sanitized the entire dining room and reopened the restaurant two hours later,” said Scott Rodrick, the owner operator of the McDonald’s. “The health department visited the restaurant this afternoon and cleared the restaurant for full operations.
“We are thankful that SFPD and animal control were so responsive to the incident.”
The restaurant was able to reopen without issue, but, the assimilation between humans, raccoons and their habitat can be a cause for concern.
Even though the raccoon didn’t enter the restaurant on its own, it still posed a large threat for the costumers and the employees. If the situation was not handled properly, it could have led to the spread of germs and potentially life-threatening diseases.
Raccoon Habits & Warning Signs
Most commonly, raccoons will create a den in a fallen log or a large hole in a tree.
But they could also decide to move into your home, business, or other structures like barns and sheds. If a raccoon were to get inside an attic or crawl space of a building, it could sound like a small person is roaming around.
Raccoons can also be quite vocal and make high-pitched sounds, especially if their young are present.
Found throughout North America, raccoons will eat almost anything they can get their paws on. Fruits, vegetables, insects, garbage, and pet food are all desirable meals for the masked critter.
They have also been known to pluck mice from their hiding spots and raid bird nests for the tasty eggs.
Curious by nature, raccoons can get themselves into places where they don’t belong, like your home or office.
Raccoons can cause structural damage to your property if they are creating a larger entry point or if they are trying to build a nest for their young.
Even though they are primarily nocturnal, it is not uncommon for the critter to search for food during the day. So, if one is spotted during the day, it doesn’t mean you’ve spotted a raccoon with rabies.
But that doesn’t mean the raccoon isn’t carrying other threatening germs and diseases.
Diseases Raccoons Can Carry
Not only can they cause damage to your home or office, raccoons can spread diseases.
If a raccoon spots a person, the critter will likely scurry away because they are afraid. However, if they feel provoked or threatened, they have been known to attack the aggressor.
These attacks have the potential to transmit germs and diseases carried by raccoons.
Commonly associated with raccoons, rabies is an issue that has been growing since the early 1990s.
Transmitted from raccoons to humans or other animals through bites or scratches, rabies can be deadly.
Symptoms of rabies in a person include nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, anxiety, difficulty swallowing, and partial paralysis among others. The symptoms can be similar to the flu and can last for several days.
Signs that an animal has been infected with rabies include foaming at the mouth, aggressive behavior, paralysis in the hind legs, or stumbling as if the animal is drunk.
It’s important to have your pets immunized to try to prevent the transmission of the rabies disease. Whether the animal spends a lot of time outdoors, or might sneak out when you open the door, they can be at risk if they aren’t vaccinated.
One of the many diseases transmitted through raccoon droppings is roundworm and impacts most raccoons at some point in their life.
Roundworm eggs live inside raccoon droppings, which makes removal essential. If particles from the eggs become airborne, they can become inhaled by humans or pets.
If the eggs are swallowed, they will eventually hatch inside the body. This is extremely dangerous because the larvae can attach itself to different parts of the body. Because of this danger, it is important to not try and clean up raccoon feces on your own. Leave that to a wildlife professional.
Symptoms of roundworm include tiredness, loss of muscle control and vision, and in some cases it can be fatal.
It is also common for raccoon droppings to contain salmonella.
The salmonella bacteria can be transmitted easily when people or animals ingest contaminated food. Salmonella bacteria can live in dry environments for extended periods of time, potentially leading to infections.
Symptoms of salmonella include severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever. Children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to have severe infections caused by salmonella bacteria.
Like roundworm, leptospirosis can infect humans and animals. Leptospirosis can be transmitted through raccoon droppings and urine.
Leptospirosis is commonly contracted if an open cut or wound has come into contact with raccoon droppings.
Symptoms of leptospirosis include high fever, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, muscle and body aches, anemia, and meningitis. It can also lead to liver and kidney failure.
Yes, it’s true. Raccoons can carry the canine distemper disease, too.
Although people are safe from canine distemper, the disease can be deadly if transmitted to other animals. Transmitted through airborne droplets, raccoon droppings, and direct contract with bodily fluids, can be deadly for dogs, cats, ferrets, and livestock.
Signs of canine distemper in pets include sneezing, loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and hardened footpads and nose.
Raccoons showing signs of confusion and acting tame might have the canine distemper disease. The raccoon can become unconscious and die due to the high mortality rate.
Much like rabies, you can immunize your pets to prevent the spread of canine distemper virus.
Professional Raccoon Removal & Exclusion
Finding where raccoons have built their den could be a challenge, especially if your home or office is surrounded by a heavily wooded area. Pest and wildlife management professionals have the education and proper training to effectively eliminate a raccoon problem.
If raccoons have made their way inside, it’s important to have them removed before they damage your property. Once removed, the entire area will need to be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized.
While raccoon removal is a large part of the process, it isn’t a total solution. A permanent pest-exclusion system is an ideal solution, whether you are a homeowner or business owner with a raccoon problem.
A full exclusion system does more than seal one or two weak points or holes in the structure. Successful wildlife exclusion systems accomplish:
- Extracting the rodent(s) or wildlife from the home.
- Excludes the rodent(s) or wildlife from the places they are entering in addition to entry points they may find in the future.
This effort is long-term and keeps pests, rodents, and wildlife where they belong — outside.
If you believe your home or business has a raccoon or wildlife problem, contact pest control professionals today for a free inspection. It’s the best choice for your investment, whether it’s your home or professional space.
If you or a pet begin to show signs of any of the diseases listed above it is advised to seek medical attention. Diseases spread by raccoons can become severe, so it’s best to seek treatment immediately.