Wildlife Diseases


Wildlife diseases or wildlife-transmitted diseases naturally occur in wild populations with certain diseases and disease outbreaks target specific species. This section provides information about some of the most common wildlife diseases seen in Fairfax County:

Lyme disease

Rabies

Visit the Center for Disease Control for additional information about the rabies virus and its effect on animals and humans.

Chronic Wasting Disease & Hemorrhagic Disease

White-nose syndrome

A fatal fungus infection is spreading rapidly in cave-dwelling bats.  First discovered in a New York state cave in 2006, the fungus has infected bats from Canada to the southeastern US including Virginia.  Bats that hibernate in caves, including the big brown bat and little brown bat that are common across Virginia, are dying in large numbers. 

Fairfax County may suffer the loss of bats that fly here from the mountains west of us.  With that loss, we would lose one of our most effective insect controls.   The situation with white nose syndrome is changing rapidly. 

Up to date news is available on the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries web page and links there to U.S. Forestry Service and U.S. Geological Survey web pages on bats and white nose syndrome.

Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange is a skin disease caused by a mite and primarily affectsafflicts red fox populations in Fairfax County.

  • Animals with sarcoptic mange have progressive fur loss, increased internal and external parasites, and an inability to control their body temperature leading to frostbite or freezing in winter and heat stroke or sun damage in summer.
  • Animals with severe mange generally die from complications associated with this condition. Contact Animal Control at (703) 691-2131 if you observe an animal with severe mange.

Raccoon Roundworm

Raccoon roundworm is a parasite and can infect humans who ingest roundworm eggs from their surrounding environment. Infection can occur if playing or worming outdoors in dirt that has been contaminated with raccoon feces. The incidence of human infections is low. 

Larvae that emerge from ingested eggs can migrate through the body and cause health complications, or in rare instance, death. As of 2008, there have been no confirmed cases in Virginia and only 15 confirmed cases nationwide.

Preventive measures include:

  • Do not touch any raccoon (especially babies) - They may have the sticky eggs on their fur.

  • Closely monitor small children, especially in areas where raccoons may have defecated.

  • Routinely de-worm your dogs.  Dogs may host roundworms if they consume raccoon feces or the meat of an animal infested with roundworm eggs. 

  • Do not attract raccoons, or other wildlife, to your property by feeding them (intentionally or accidentally).

  • Clean up clean up raccoon latrines.

For more information on raccoon roundworm, see U.S. Communicable Disease Center web pages.


Bird Diseases and Your Bird Feeder

Birds are vulnerable to diseases related to crowding and contaminated food sources.  Bird feeders can increase the spread of disease in certain birds.  Not all bird species use bird feeders. 

The National Wildlife Health Center provides information about the diseases that most commonly infect the birds that use bird feeders:

  • Avian pox - viral disease causing wart-like growths on infected birds faces, wings, and legs.

  • Bronchitis and pneumonia – caused by fungus growing in damp bird seed and debris beneath feeders.

  • Salmonella - bacterial infection transmitted in food contaminated by fecal droppings.

  • Trichomoniasis – parasitic infection causing mouth and throat sores in infected birds and transmitted in food or water.

Preventative measures on how to keep wild birds safe at bird feeders include:

  • Regularly clean your bird feeder - Disinfect feeder with bleach solution. 

  • Regularly clean the area beneath your bird feeder – Avoid attracting rodents or rabies vector species.

The National Bird Feeding Society and Cornell University’s Project FeederWatch provides comprehensive information on how to prevent and control the spread of disease transmitted through your bird feeder.

 


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