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Be Aware of Diseases

Learn about diseases that are shared between humans and other species.

Staying Healthy: Being Aware of Diseases Shared Between Humans and Other Species

The health of people is closely connected to the health of other animals and our shared environment. Animals and people can be affected by the same diseases, transmitted by viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Keeping wildlife healthy will help keep you and your family healthy.

As our city population grows and expands into previously rural areas, more residents live in closer contact with wildlife. The disruption of wildlife habitats facilitates the exchange of diseases between people and animals. Although it happens very rarely, it’s possible to pick up diseases from wild animals, and pass diseases to wild animals.

See the Diseases Fact Sheet!

Did You Know?

One Health is a public health approach that is gaining recognition in the United States and globally to address health issues at the human-animal-environment interface.

A venn diagram showing overlap between people, animals, and plants. One health is the idea that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and shared environment. When we protect one, we help protect all.

THE CHALLENGES We’re All Connected, in Sickness and in Health

Because people and animals are connected, we need to prevent the passing of diseases. The first step is to be aware of how people can get infected. While infections are very rare, they may occur in the following ways:

  • Direct contact: Coming into contact with the body fluids or feces of an infected animal, for example through bites or scratches.
  • Indirect contact: Coming into contact with areas where an infected animal lives, such as surfaces in a backyard shed populated by mice.
  • Vector-borne: Being bitten by a mosquito, flea, or tick, which may be disease vectors. Vectors are living agents that carry and transmit an infectious pathogen. As our climate warms, the areas where mosquitos and ticks can live are expanding.
  • Food- and water-borne: Eating or drinking something that has been spoiled with feces from an infected animal.

Zoonotic Diseases in Albuquerque

Diseases that can spread between humans and animals are called zoonotic. In Albuquerque, serious but extremely rare zoonotic diseases include the following:

  • Plague: a bacterial disease passed by fleas to rodents. People and pets can get infected through flea bites or contact with infected rodents. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, high fever, chills, headache, and weakness. Plague is curable if promptly diagnosed and treated. Protect pets, particularly cats, from fleas; prevent rodent access to your house and yard.
  • Tularemia: a bacterial disease passed by infected ticks and deer flies to rabbits and rodents. People and pets can get infected through tick bites or contact with infected animals. Symptoms include fever, ulcers, and lymph gland swelling. ⇒ On hikes, use insect repellant and protect dogs from ticks; prevent rodent access to your house and yard.
  • Hantavirus: a rodent-borne respiratory disease passed through a virus in rodent urine, feces, and saliva, primarily of the deer mouse. Early symptoms include fatigue, fever, and muscle aches, followed by coughing and shortness of breath. ⇒ Prevent rodent access to your house and yard.
  • Rabies: a deadly neurologic disease caused by a virus that is passed to people and pets through bites of infected animals, such as bats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. If you or your pet have been bitten by a wild animal, wash the wound and get medical care right away. ⇒ Vaccinate your pet against rabies – it’s the law.

These diseases are extremely rare, with an average of fewer than 5 cases per year in New Mexico.

Action Tips: Be a Friend to Wildlife! ❤ What You Can do

The words Tip #1

Keep Your Distance From Wildlife

Always keep your distance from wild animals to keep everyone safe and healthy. If a wild animal changes their behavior (for example, if they stop eating or run away), you are too close!

  • Don’t feed or leave food outside for wildlife, except for songbirds.
  • Don’t provoke, harass, or corner wild animals. Leave them alone.
  • Don’t touch or pick up wild animals, even if they look injured or abandoned. If an injury looks serious, report the animal by calling 311.
  • Help your dog keep their distance by using a leash. Don’t allow dogs or cats to hunt wild animals.

The words Tip #2

Practice Cleanliness

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water after spending time in places where wild animals might have been (such as gardens, sheds, cabins, hiking trails).
  • Don’t touch wildlife.
  • Don’t touch or pick up dead animals. Call 311 for advice. If you must remove a dead animal, wear water-resistant gloves, glasses, and a mask, and discard the animal in a sealed bag.
  • Use precautions when cleaning or working in an area that shows signs of rodent activity.
  • Clean up trash, debris, and sources of standing water in your yard. If you have a bird bath, clean it regularly.

The words Tip #3

Rodent-Proof Your Home and Yard

  • Reduce rodent access to food, water, and shelter in your yard:
    • Keep trash bins tightly closed and cover your compost.
    • Clean up refuse and clutter from your yard, such as piles of litter, wood, and rocks.
    • Use rodent-proof, above-ground bird feeders and clean up spilled birdseed.
    • Don’t feed dogs or cats outside.
    • Stack firewood off the ground and away from your house.
  • Prevent rodent access to your house and sheds by sealing cracks and crevices and screening windows and doors.

The words Tip #4

Prepare for Your Outdoor Activities

  • Before visiting a new place, learn about its wildlife.
  • Stay on trails, follow visitor guidelines, and dispose of trash properly.
  • Wear an EPA-registered insect repellent and long-sleeved clothing.
  • Bring a first aid kit.
  • Bring water and don’t drink from a stream unless you have disinfecting equipment.
  • Check yourself and your pets for ticks after being outdoors.

The words Tip 5

Keep Pets and Wildlife Safe

  • Vaccinate your dog and cats. City law requires that dogs and cats are vaccinated against rabies, as well as other deadly diseases.
  • Leash your dog on walks and hikes.
  • Pick up and dispose of dog waste, which can carry diseases.
  • Don’t let pets interact with wildlife, and don’t let them chase, kill, or eat wild animals.
  • Ask your veterinarian about flea control products for your pet.
  • Seek veterinary care if your pet gets injured or sick.

Just Ask: Need Help?

  • Seek medical or veterinary care if you or your pet gets bitten by a wild animal, especially if the animal appeared sick or if the wound becomes red, warm, or swollen.
  • Report a dead rabbit or rodent on your property when the cause of death is not obvious (no signs of trauma, predation, etc.), but don’t touch the animal. Call 311 and the City’s Urban Biology Division will contact you. The City will collect and test animals found in North Albuquerque Acres, neighborhoods east of Tramway Blvd, Foothills, and East Mountains communities.
  • Get free pet vaccinations: for low- to moderate-income residents, free vaccinations for dogs and cats are available through the Animal Welfare Department’s Offsite Preventative Health Clinic or its Mobile Services Van. Call 311 to request an appointment.

Be a Friend To Wildlife ❤ ABQ Wildlife Coexistence

Albuquerque is home to over 850 animal species, many of whom roamed these lands long before our city's founding. They are important city residents who help maintain healthy local ecosystems. Always Enjoy Wildlife from a distance.

Be a Friend to Wildlife: Dos & Dont's

Don't feed wildlife (except songbirds)
Don't feed pets outside
Don't leave pet waste
Don't use chemicals or poisons

Do keep your distance
Do seal garbage &compost
Do plant native flowers
Do supervise your pets
Do stay on trails