While squirrels are often seen as cute and harmless creatures, they can carry diseases that pose a potential risk to humans. Despite their small size, squirrels can transmit serious illnesses such as rabies, Lyme disease, tularemia, salmonellosis, and leptospirosis. This article will delve into the various diseases that squirrels carry, providing detailed and accurate information about their transmission, symptoms, and potential impact on human health. By understanding these risks, individuals can take necessary precautions to ensure their safety when encountering squirrels in their environment.

Key Takeaways

  • Rabies is a viral disease that can be transmitted by squirrels through bites or scratches.
  • Lyme Disease can be transmitted through the bite of infected black-legged ticks that squirrels may carry.
  • Squirrels can become carriers of Salmonella and shed it through their feces, which can cause salmonellosis in humans.
  • Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can be contracted by humans and animals through contact with contaminated water or soil, including areas where squirrels may have been present.


Rabies is a viral disease commonly carried by squirrels. It is caused by the rabies virus, which belongs to the family Rhabdoviridae. The virus primarily affects the central nervous system and is typically transmitted through the bite of an infected animal.

Rabies transmission occurs when the virus enters the body through broken skin or mucous membranes. Squirrels can transmit the virus to humans and other animals through bites or scratches. It is important to note that not all squirrels are infected with rabies, but caution should be exercised when encountering any wild animal.

Prevention of rabies is crucial, as the disease is almost always fatal once symptoms appear. Vaccination is the most effective method for preventing rabies. People who work with animals or live in areas where rabies is prevalent should consider getting vaccinated as a precautionary measure.

In addition to vaccination, other preventive measures should be taken to reduce the risk of rabies transmission. These include avoiding contact with wild animals, especially those exhibiting abnormal behavior, and keeping pets up to date on their rabies vaccinations. It is also important to report any animal bites or encounters with potentially rabid animals to local health authorities for further evaluation and guidance.

Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease, another disease carried by squirrels, is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected black-legged ticks. This tick-borne infection can cause a range of symptoms and can be difficult to diagnose due to its resemblance to other illnesses. Here are three key points to understand about Lyme Disease:

  1. Symptoms: The initial symptoms of Lyme Disease may include fever, fatigue, headache, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system, leading to more severe symptoms such as joint pain, facial paralysis, and memory problems.
  2. Diagnosis: Diagnosing Lyme Disease can be challenging as its symptoms can mimic other conditions. Doctors often rely on a combination of clinical evaluation, patient history, and laboratory tests to confirm the presence of the infection. Serologic tests, such as the enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and the Western blot test, are commonly used to detect antibodies against the bacterium.
  3. Treatment: Early detection and prompt treatment are crucial for effectively managing Lyme Disease. The standard treatment involves a course of antibiotics, typically doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime. In cases where the infection has spread to the central nervous system or joints, intravenous antibiotics may be necessary. It is important to complete the full course of antibiotics to ensure complete eradication of the bacterium.


Tularemia, a zoonotic disease, is another notable illness carried by squirrels. It is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Transmission of the disease can occur through various methods, including direct contact with infected animals, such as handling or skinning infected squirrels, or through the bites of infected ticks and fleas. In addition, tularemia can also be contracted by inhaling contaminated dust or drinking contaminated water.

Symptoms of tularemia can vary depending on the route of infection. The most common form of the disease is ulceroglandular tularemia, which is characterized by a skin ulcer at the site of infection and swollen lymph nodes. Other forms include glandular tularemia, which causes enlarged lymph nodes without a skin ulcer, and pneumonic tularemia, which affects the lungs and can lead to respiratory symptoms.

Treatment for tularemia usually involves the use of antibiotics, such as streptomycin or gentamicin. It is important to start treatment early to prevent complications and reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

Preventive measures are crucial in avoiding tularemia. It is recommended to avoid direct contact with wild animals, especially squirrels. When handling dead animals, wearing gloves and taking proper hygienic measures is essential. In addition, using insect repellent and protective clothing when spending time in areas with high tick and flea populations can help reduce the risk of infection. Proper cooking and boiling of water is also important to prevent the consumption of contaminated water sources.


Another disease carried by squirrels is salmonellosis, caused by the bacteria Salmonella. This bacterial infection is commonly associated with contaminated food and water, but it can also be transmitted through direct contact with infected animals, including squirrels. Here are three important points to consider regarding salmonellosis and squirrels:

  1. Transmission methods: Squirrels can become carriers of Salmonella by consuming contaminated food or water sources. They can then shed the bacteria through their feces, which can contaminate the environment. Humans can contract salmonellosis by accidentally ingesting the bacteria through direct contact with infected squirrels, their feces, or surfaces contaminated with the bacteria.
  2. Prevention measures: To reduce the risk of salmonellosis from squirrels, it is important to practice good hygiene. Avoid direct contact with wild squirrels and their feces. If you come into contact with them, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. Keep food and water sources properly covered to prevent contamination by squirrels. Additionally, it is crucial to cook food thoroughly and maintain proper food handling practices to minimize the risk of bacterial contamination.
  3. Seek medical attention: If you suspect you have contracted salmonellosis or experience symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps after contact with squirrels, seek medical attention promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment can help alleviate symptoms and prevent complications.


Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection, is another disease that squirrels can carry. It is caused by the bacteria of the genus Leptospira, which is commonly found in the urine of infected animals. Squirrels can become infected with leptospirosis through contact with contaminated water or soil. This disease can affect both humans and animals, and it is important to take precautions to prevent its transmission.

To better understand leptospirosis, let's take a look at the symptoms and treatment options in the table below:

Symptoms Treatment Options
Fever Antibiotics
Muscle aches Intravenous fluids
Headache Pain relievers
Nausea and vomiting Bed rest
Jaundice Supportive care

Prevention methods for leptospirosis include avoiding contact with squirrel urine and contaminated water sources. It is important to wear protective clothing, such as gloves and boots, when handling squirrels or cleaning areas where they may have urinated. Additionally, maintaining good hygiene practices, such as washing hands thoroughly with soap and water, can help reduce the risk of infection.

If you suspect you or your pet may have contracted leptospirosis, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve outcomes and prevent complications. Remember, prevention and awareness are key in protecting yourself and your furry friends from this potentially serious bacterial infection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Squirrels Transmit Diseases to Humans Through Their Urine or Feces?

Squirrels can transmit diseases to humans through their urine or feces. Understanding the transmission methods is crucial in implementing effective prevention measures. It is important to be aware of the potential risks and take necessary precautions to minimize exposure.

Are There Any Effective Vaccines Available to Prevent Diseases Transmitted by Squirrels?

Vaccine availability for diseases transmitted by squirrels is limited. While some vaccines exist, their efficacy may vary, and they may not cover all potential diseases. More research is needed to develop effective preventive measures.

How Long Does It Take for Symptoms of Squirrel-Transmitted Diseases to Appear in Humans?

The incubation period of squirrel-transmitted diseases in humans varies depending on the specific pathogen. Early symptoms can manifest within days to weeks after exposure. Prompt recognition and medical intervention are crucial for effective management.

Are There Any Specific Areas or Regions Where the Risk of Contracting Diseases From Squirrels Is Higher?

Risk factors for contracting diseases from squirrels can vary depending on geographical location. Certain regions with higher populations of squirrels may pose a higher risk. Preventive measures such as proper hygiene and avoiding contact with squirrels can help mitigate the risk.

Can Domestic Pets, Such as Dogs or Cats, Contract Diseases From Squirrels?

Domestic pets, such as dogs or cats, can contract diseases from squirrels due to their close proximity and interactions. It is important to be aware of squirrel behavior, implement squirrel-proofing measures in homes, and regularly monitor the health of pets to prevent potential infections.