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Nocturnal and docile creatures, opossums generally do not pose a threat to humans. As a carrier of many diseases, however, opossums can become sick with an illness that they can then transmit to humans and pets through direct and indirect contact.

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Common Opossum Diseases That Can Affect Humans

When encountering sick opossums, humans are at risk of catching diseases such as:

Leptospirosis – if untreated, this bacterial disease can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, respiratory distress, and death. Humans can get infected by coming in contact with urine or other bodily fluids (minus saliva) and water, soil, or food that is contaminated with an infected animal’s urine.

Murine Typhus – fleas transmit this disease, infecting humans through the eye, airway, bite site, or other skin opening they scratch. Symptoms include headaches, chills, rashes, body aches, and pains.

Rabies – Many believe that the opossum they encounter who seems sick must have rabies. And while any mammal can contract rabies, it is extremely rare for an opossum because its low body temperature of 94-97°F makes it hard for the virus to survive in its body.

Tularemia – a zoonotic disease passed from animals to humans through a bite, scratch, or infected tissue. Infections in humans can also occur indirectly from a biting insect vector such as ticks and deer flies. Lastly, humans can catch tularemia if bacteria they pick up in contaminated water or soil gets into the eye, an open wound, or is digested from eating tainted food.

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Whether they are healthy, sick, troubled, or dead, minimize your chance of infection by taking precautions when encountering opossums. If opossums are causing problems at your home or business, contact a wildlife professional to address the issue for you.

Symptoms of a Sick Opossum

While an opossum that appears healthy can still be ill internally, exterior signs to be aware of include:

Changes in the skin including discoloration, spots, or soresUlcers or tumors on the skinFur loss, patching, or baldingErratic behavior including being too lethargic or too agitatedFoaming or frothing of the mouthTrouble breathingThrowing up or having diarrhea

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