November 4, 2019 - As deer hunting season begins, the Texas Department of State Health Services reminds Texans to take precautions to protect themselves from serious diseases transmitted by animals.
This summer 20 animals and one person in southwestern Texas contracted anthrax, a life-threatening disease caused by naturally occurring bacteria present in the soil worldwide. Animals can get the disease by swallowing anthrax spores while grazing, and people can get anthrax by handling infected animals or eating their meat. Rabies and brucellosis can also be passed to people through direct contact with live or dead animals so use protective gear when handling animal carcasses.
Hunters, hikers and campers should use insect repellant to avoid bites. Mosquitoes and ticks are still active in the fall and can transmit West Nile virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease and a variety of other diseases that require prompt treatment to avoid potentially devastating complications. Infections such as plague and typhus are spread by fleas, often carried by rodents and other animals.
Tularemia and hantavirus are spread by direct contact with infected rodents or their droppings. “You can become infected by inhaling dust that contains hantavirus,” said Dr. Tom Sidwa, manager of DSHS’s Zoonosis Control Branch. “Wear a mask and follow other CDC guidelines when cleaning up after rodents, especially for heavy infestations in cabins, sheds, hunting blinds or barns.”
DSHS recommends the following precautions to minimize the risk of contracting diseases that are transmitted by wildlife:
- Use an effective insect repellent and follow package directions carefully. Those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, and 2-undecanone provide longer lasting protection.
- Stay on trails and avoid areas of overgrown brush and tall grasses.
- Do not touch dead animals you find or their remains, including antlers, bones, and hides.
- Wear latex-type gloves when dressing game.
- Wear eye protection when dressing game to prevent fluids or tissues from splashing into your eyes. Shooting glasses provide an acceptable level of eye protection in most cases.
- Avoid eating, drinking, using tobacco, or rubbing your eyes while dressing game.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling game. If soap is not available, rinse thoroughly with water and then apply an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cook all game meats thoroughly. Do not give raw scraps to your pets.
- Wear protective clothing such as a hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants tucked into boots or socks and check frequently for ticks.
Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts can find additional information about diseases that can spread from animals to people at https://www.dshs.texas.gov/idcu/health/zoonosis/outdoor/.