Wildlife diseases naturally occur in wild populations and certain diseases and disease outbreaks target specific species. Some wildlife diseases can be transmitted to humans. This section provides information about some of the most common and/or most significant wildlife diseases that can occur in wild populations, including the species seen in Fairfax County:
Information about Lyme disease and the ticks that transmit the bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) that causes this disease is provided by the Fairfax County Health Department’s Disease Carrying Insects Program.
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.
Visit the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center for more information about White-nose syndrome and a wide range of other wildlife diseases.
Visit the US Forest Service for information on how you can help slow the spread of White-nose syndrome.
Sarcoptic mange is a skin disease caused by a mite and primarily afflicts 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 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).