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Wildlife Diseases

 

New! (Posted April 16, 2013) -  ViewThe Disease Hunters”, a recent episode of the STEM Journals, in which host Brad Piccirillo takes to the field with Arizona Game and Fish Department Wildlife Health Specialist Anne Justice-Allen and outbreak epidemiologists from TGen North, in search of infectious diseases in fox and prairie dog populations. The STEM Journals is an entertaining and educational program covering science and technology in Arizona and airs on Cox Channel 7 and 1007 HD at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Sunday and 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

Wildlife resources are under constant change due to human population growth, habitat loss and overall ecological degradation.  All of these factors can contribute to the emergence of infectious diseases.  Wildlife species are also subject to diseases resulting from exposure to bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, and other biological and physical agents. Wildlife species can be natural hosts for diseases that affect humans.  The diseases which are directly transmitted from animals to humans are referred to as zoonotic diseases.  Diseases transmitted from animals to human via vectors (usually through insect bites) are referred to as vector-borne diseases.

Some general precautions should be taken to reduce risks of exposure and prevent infection.  Caution should always be used when approaching or handling wild animals, especially those that look sick or behave abnormally.  Procedures for basic personal hygiene should be practiced as well as keeping equipment clean.  Some important precautions to remember are as follows:

  • Wear protective clothing, particularly reusable rubber or disposable latex gloves, when dissecting or skinning wild animals.
  • Scrub the work area, knives, other tools, and reusable gloves with a disinfectant soap, such as chlorhexidine or betadine scrub solution, or use detergent followed by diluted household bleach.
  • Avoid touching face, eating, drinking, or smoking while handling animals and wash hands thoroughly after any handling any wildlife. Alcohol sanitizer is only effective if hands are not soiled. While in the field, use of moist towelettes, followed by hand sanitizer can be used to simulate hand washing.
  • Safely dispose of carcasses and tissues as well as any contaminated disposable items such as latex gloves. Animal carcasses should be sealed in a durable plastic bag and disposed of at a landfill in the animal carcass designated area. If the animal is found in a wild area (such as BLM, National Forest Service), then burying deeply, to prevent scavenging by animals is another viable option.
  • Never consume animals that appeared ill, found dead with unknown cause of death, or if there are abnormalities in the flesh of the animal noticed while cutting into a carcass.

  • Thoroughly cook meat.
  • Protect from vector-borne disease in high-risk areas by: using mosquito or tick repellents (i.e. DEET or picardin), wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and simply tucking pant cuffs into socks to increase the chance of finding crawling ticks before they attach.
  • After outdoor activity, remove and wash field clothing promptly and dry clothes at a high temperature.
  • Inspect your body carefully and remove attached ticks with pointed tweezers.  Grasp ticks as close to the skin as possible and pull the head of the tick loose with a slow, steady motion.
  • While camping, sleep in a tent, instead of the directly on the ground.

  • Keep any pets under immediate supervision, preferably on a leash.
  • Make sure that your pets are currently vaccinated for rabies by a veterinarian and licensed with your local animal control agency.
  • Proper filtering/boiling of surface water is always advised prior to consumption.
  • Contact a physician if you become sick, especially with flu-like symptoms, following exposure to a wild animal or ectoparasite (i.e. tick, flea, or mosquito).  Inform the physician of your possible exposure to a zoonotic disease. 
Disease Programs at AZGFD

  Diseases of Concern in Arizona


For more information contact
Carrington Knox, Wildlife Disease Biologist
Arizona Game and Fish Department
5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000

Phone: (623) 236-7674      E-mail: cknox@azgfd.gov

Anne Justice-Allen, DVM, Wildlife Health Specialist
Arizona Game and Fish Department
5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000

Phone: (623) 236-7351      E-mail: ajustice-allen@azgfd.gov

 

 
 
 
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Chronic Wasting Disease Test Results

   

Dead or Sick Animal Reporting

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Report a sick or dead animal

 

Important Links

- USGS National Health Center
 

 


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