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|When you see something like this in your customer's home, what crosses your mind? (After "good things they called me.") This exclusion attempt could mean that the nuisance animals entered the living spaces. Ask if any person or pet came into contact with the wild animal. If that's true, consult with the health department. You may need to submit a specimen for a rabies test. That might change your approach to capturing and removing the animal.|
"I was scratched on the wrist while banding a Canada goose. About a week later, another goose scratched off the scab. It took me a few hours to notice that the open wound was completely covered in goose poop. Our field station was a day's helicopter flight away from the nearest hospital, and I'd forgotten a first-aid kit. So I washed the wound as best I could with snow. The next morning, the entire area was swollen and tender and I had difficulty bending the wrist." [He cleansed the wound with whiskey and recovered fully.]
—Arthur Smith, wildlife biologist, SD
Wildlife diseases can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. The ones that can be transmitted to people are called "zoonotic diseases" or "zoonoses." There are several different ways you can become infected. Most often, this happens when an infected animal bites or scratches you. Disease agents may enter your body through wounds, or through your eyes, nose, or mouth.
You can also pick up diseases indirectly, when you're bitten by a mosquito, tick, or flea that fed on an infected animal. Mosquitoes spread West Nile virus, ticks spread Lyme disease, and fleas carry plague and typhus.
Some diseases are transmitted through the air, such as hantavirus or histoplasmosis. You can breathe them in, especially while stirring up dust in a confined space. Touching your mouth after you've touched something that's contaminated, or eating infected meat that hasn't been properly cooked, may also cause an infection. This is a significant problem for young children, especially when they're playing outdoors. Their sandboxes, play areas, or toys may become contaminated by the droppings or urine of wildlife. Kids may put soil, wood chips, or droppings into their mouths. Raccoon roundworm is spread this way; the parasite's eggs are found in contaminated soil.
So how can you protect yourself, and make sure you don't bring diseases or parasites into your home? Practice good personal hygiene, wear protective gear such as disposable gloves, disinfect your equipment, maintain your rabies and tetanus vaccinations, and use safe animal capturing and handling techniques. Good hygiene and sanitation will also reduce the chance of developing allergies to animals.
Probably the single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of catching a zoonotic disease is to wash your hands. Ordinary soap and water will do. Wash your hands the way your parents taught you to, thoroughly and often. And always wash your hands before you eat, drink, or smoke.
Another healthy habit is to avoid contact between your hands and your face, eyes, or mouth. Pay attention when you're eating, drinking, smoking, adjusting your glasses, applying cosmetics, taking medication, and when you sneeze.
Keep your gear clean, too. Many of the objects you handle are often fouled by blood, feces, urine, saliva, or body tissues. If your hands or gloves are dirty, it's easy to contaminate doorknobs, car doors, clipboards, telephones, computer keyboards, faucet handles, and many other objects. The nuisance animal may also have made quite a mess; if you don't offer clean-up services, you may want to tell your customers how to deal with it safely.
At the end of the day, clean and disinfect all of the equipment you used with dilute bleach water (a 10% chlorine bleach solution, which is one part bleach to nine parts water) or a household or commercial disinfectant. Wipe down your truck's seat, steering wheel, and door handles. Some NWCOs keep a quart spray bottle of disinfectant in the truck's cab because bleach solutions don't keep long, so it's better to work with small batches. Just don't mix bleach and ammonia, or use bleach to clean up droppings, which contain ammonia. Use a household or commercial disinfectant instead. Antibacterial wipes may seem even more convenient but they weren't designed to kill parasites, fungi, or viruses. Those agents cause all but one of the diseases discussed later.
Consider the time you spend cleaning as marketing effort because some customers will interpret cleanliness as a sign of professionalism and competence.
Click here for a few wildlife-related safety tips from the CDC that you may want to share with your customers
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