Public Health Summer Safety Tips: Animal-Related Diseases

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- The summer months are filled with outdoor fun in the sun. When thinking of outdoor activities, we sometimes forget to think about our health and safety. Fortunately, diseases spread by animals are relatively uncommon in Idaho. However, taking a few simple, yet essential steps can help protect you and your family from getting sick. The following is a list of animal-related diseases found in the Western U.S., including Idaho.

Cat Scratch Disease:  CSD is a bacterial infection. About 40% of cats carry the disease at some time in their lives, though most do not have symptoms. The disease spreads when an infected cat licks a person's open wound, bites, or scratches a person hard enough to break the surface of the skin. There's no CSD vaccine; however, you can take steps to reduce your risk: avoid playing rough with your pets, avoid allowing cats to lick your open wounds, and don't touch stray or feral cats. Keep your cat's nails trimmed and control fleas by treating your pets with flea medication, checking for fleas and vacuuming frequently.

Hantavirus:  Deer mice can carry Hantavirus in their urine, droppings and saliva. People can become infected with Hantavirus when they breathe in air contaminated with the virus. Look out for mice droppings when using a building that has been closed for a long time, and when camping, hiking or engaging in other outdoor activities where droppings may be present. If you notice droppings in your home or workspace, contact Public Health for advice on how to clean it up, or visit the following link ( Seal up holes and cracks inside and outside your house. Keep your house clean by putting food in thick plastic/glass/metal sealed containers and cleaning up after cooking and eating.

Plague:  Plague affects rodents, humans and other mammals. People and their pets can get the disease if they are bitten by a flea that is infected or by handling an animal infected with plague. To reduce your risk, avoid contact with wild rodents, their fleas and rodent carcasses. Never handle sick or dead rodents. Use insect repellent that contains DEET and treat your pets with an appropriate flea control product.

Rabies: People, as well as cats, dogs and other domestic animals can get rabies through the bite of an infected animal. In the Midwest, the rabies virus has been found in bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes. Small animals, such as squirrels and mice are not known to cause rabies.  Protect yourself by staying away from wild or stray animals and by ensuring that your pets are up-to-date with their rabies vaccination. Contact your local animal control department if you see a stray animal in your neighborhood. If on base, contact Security Forces at 208-828-2256. If you are bitten or scratched by a wild or stray animal, or even by a pet whose vaccination status is unknown, seek medical care right away.

West Nile Virus: People can get WNV if bitten by an infected mosquito. There are currently no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent WNV infection. Most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms, but some people can experience fever, headache, body aches, nausea, diarrhea or rash. A very small number of people can develop more serious illness. You can protect yourself from WNV by using insect repellent containing DEET and by wearing long-sleeves and long-pants to prevent mosquito bites.

The Mountain Home Air Force Base Veterinary Clinic has rabies vaccination and flea control products available for pets.  For more information please contact the MHAFB Veterinary Clinic at 208-828-2221.

The likelihood of any Gunfighter contracting any of the diseases mentioned above is low. Education and prevention is key to keeping the overall risk low.  For more information about these diseases, including signs, symptoms and when to seek care, visit the Centers for Disease Control's website at:  For additional tips on preventing animal-related diseases, contact the 366th Medical Group, Public Health Flight at 208-828-7280.