Do opossums have Rabies? We have provided answers in this article.
Encounters between humans and animals or pests are pretty standard. In most cases, such meetings aren’t instead, as they expose humans and pets to significant dangers.
Rabies is one fatal viral disease that’s highly contagious and can spread to humans and pets.
It’s mainly spread from infected animals such as coyotes, raccoons, foxes, skunks, and rabid bats.
Rabies will readily get transmitted through direct contact. Possible transmission points include broken skin or mucous membranes in the mouth, eyes, or nose.
Rabies is a viral disease that’s common with warm-blooded animals with fur. Warmblood allows for easy transmission of this disease upon contact with saliva or bodily fluids of infected animals.
That is why it’s almost impossible to find cold-blooded animals such as amphibians and reptiles infected with Rabies.
So, do possums fall under this category of animals? To better answer the question, we’ll have to consider the body temperature of possums to see whether they’re warm-blooded or not.
That should give us a better idea of whether they’re potential rabies hosts.
Can Opossums Get Rabies?
One problematic situation to most homeowners is finding wild creatures around homes or yards.
If you’ve seen an opossum around your home or have had recent contact, you may be interested in finding out if it carries Rabies.
This is what our discussion will focus on.
Mammals Can Carry Rabies
The apprehension about opossums as possible rabies carriers is quite understandable because any mammal can carry or get Rabies.
Examples of mammals that may be carriers of Rabies include foxes, bats, skunks, raccoons, and coyotes.
So, if these mammals can get infected with Rabies, does that make it likely for opossums to also carry the deadly virus? Opossums are also mammals.
This places them in the same category as others likely to get or carry Rabies.
Are Opossums Rabies Carriers?
One of the things we’ll need to be clear about is whether opossums spread Rabies.
There has been confusion about the potential of opossums to transmit Rabies. Now, the truth is, rabies transmission in opossums is very rare. In other words, such cases aren’t common.
Nevertheless, there have been a few reports about opossums carrying Rabies. What makes it less likely for opossums to carry Rabies?
To find out, we’ll need to discuss a little about their immune systems.
Immune Systems of Opossums
The easiest way to explain why cases of rabies transmission in opossums are rare is by understanding the immune systems of these marsupials. Of course, this will be kept brief to help with clarity and the avoidance of boredom
The body temperature of these marsupials plays a crucial role in their immunity against a wide variety of diseases.
Unlike a lot of mammals, opossums have a lower body temperature. Such low body temperature makes it difficult for many diseases including Rabies to take hold in the animal’s body.
Although possible, it will be difficult for an opossum to carry Rabies. This gives opossums an advantage or a considerable degree of immunity from Rabies.
So, if you’ve seen an opossum around your property, it’s highly unlikely that it carries Rabies.
Possums are Largely Immune to Rabies
It must be said that all wild animals have varying levels of vulnerability to Rabies.
For possums, such vulnerability is low due to the fact that they’re considered as cold-blooded. Body temperature of possums mostly ranges between 94 to 97 degrees F.
Such temperature is hardly warm enough to support viruses like Rabies.
It’s considered cold and Rabies will hardly survive under such conditions. Note that the emphasis is on the difficulty of Rabies to survive and not that Rabies is totally non-existent in possums.
There have been few cases of Rabies in possums over the years. So, you’ll have to be cautious when approaching Rabies or any other wild animals.
This is especially true when such animal is behaving in a strange or abnormal way.
Possums Can Carry But Won’t Transmit Rabies
It’s possible for an animal to be a carrier of a virus but not transmit same.
There have been ongoing studies by scientists to determine the transmissibility of diseases such as Rabies in possums. So far, a definite conclusion hasn’t been reached.
Nevertheless, the common knowledge is that possums might carry but won’t transmit Rabies.
So, how can possums carry viral diseases such as Rabies but have low possibility to be affected by same? Just like your pets, possums can be bitten by rabid animals. When this happens, they’re infected.
However because they’re cold-blooded, such disease doesn’t find the right conditions to spread to the brain.
As a matter of fact, the virus is likely to die before it ever reaches the brain. Another possibility is that possums might be bitten in the brain, but that would mean the animal being unlikely to survive.
Does This Make Opossums Safe?
While we’ve found out that the possibility of rabies transmission by opossums is quite slim, it’s important to assess other risks posed by their presence.
Opossums are carriers of other types of diseases which can be spread to both humans and domestic animals.
Examples of such diseases include leptospirosis and salmonella which are transmissible to humans through opossum droppings such as feces and urine.
The resulting health conditions can sometimes be fatal.
For transmissible diseases to animals, coccidiosis, tularemia, and equine protozoal myeloenchephalitis (EPM) are those that can be spread. Again, these are spread through opossum urine and feces.
Because most animals will go about sniffing the urine and droppings of others, it makes them easily vulnerable to such transmissible diseases.
If you keep horses around, you’ll want to avoid having these marsupials around as horses are among the most vulnerable animals when it comes to opossum presence.
Identifying a Rabid Opossum
If at all an opossum becomes infected with Rabies which is quite rare, it will display the usual signs of infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such signs are mostly similar in all types of animals including humans.
These signs include loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, and fever.
After a few days, symptoms may worsen to include seizures, weakness, cranial nerve dysfunction, difficulty breathing, paralysis, abnormal behavior, difficulty swallowing, aggression and excessive salivation.
Death results when early symptoms aren’t urgently treated. As stated earlier, the best option you have to protect yourself is keeping off all wild animals and calling for professional help.
With these removed, you’ll have to find effective ways to keep them off your property.
Are There Benefits?
So far, our discussion has focused on the negatives of having opossums around your property. This is due to the diseases transmitted to both humans and animals.
So, does that make them entirely bad?
Not exactly! While it’s necessary to keep away from them, there are certain clear benefits.
They Benefit the Ecosystem
These nocturnal creatures do a lot of good to the ecosystem. Such benefit is seen in their food preferences.
Possums feed on a variety of food sources including over-ripe berries and fruits littered on the ground as well as feeding on slugs and snails.
What more? With opossums, pests like rats, mice, and roaches are eliminated from your surroundings. Here, it’s obvious that their presence keeps certain pests at bay.
You’ll have to weigh your options to see whether it’s worth having them around or not.
Lyme Disease Prevention
Ticks are known to be a primary source of Lyme disease.
Such disease is transmissible to humans through bites from infected black-legged ticks. With possums around, your chances of contracting Lyme disease are slim.
This is because these marsupials are excellent groomers.
As a matter of fact, possums kill more than 95% of ticks on their body.
So, instead of making your surroundings a tick breeding ground as is common with other mammalian pests, possums kill them whenever they groom themselves.
What Other Diseases Do Possums Transmit
Despite the fact that possums rarely transmit Rabies, you might still be exposed to other forms of diseases which these animals are hosts to.
Examples of these include salmonella, leptospirosis, tularemia, toxoplasmosis, and tuberculosis. Some of these can be life-threatening when contracted.
Leptospirosis is one disease that targets the liver, bloodstream and kidney. Common conditions such as kidney and liver failure are likely to result due to infection.
Exposure to tuberculosis will result in a number of symptoms ranging from weakness, fever, loss of appetite, cough, and lymph node infection.
When Possums are Seen in the Daytime
Sometimes, it can be difficult to figure out whether or not a possum poses danger. However, there are signs that could signal trouble. By their nature, possums are nocturnal creatures.
This means you’ll hardly find them during the dam. However, when these are noticed during the daytime, it’s a sign that things might be wrong.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Possum Presence
If you’re more concerned about the potential of rabies transmission, it’s highly unlikely that that will happen. The reasons have been given above. However, Rabies is only one aspect of the problem.
Possum presence also exposes you to other types of diseases as listed earlier.
While discussing the diseases spread by possums, we’ve also mentioned those prevented by them. Here, it becomes necessary to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of possum presence.
As long as you don’t have any livestock around, you can live alongside these creatures by keeping away from them.
However, some homeowners may not have the tolerance for possums. There’s really nothing wrong with that. If you belong to this category of persons, you may want to have them excluded or kept at bay.
Thankfully Possums aren’t Aggressive Creatures
Possums are largely non-aggressive in the sense that they hardly attack but might look menacing when humans get to close. This is a defensive mechanism deployed to ward off perceived threats.
Also, possums may play dead simply to be left alone by a predator.
Biting could be a last resort, although it hardly happens. Again, we recommend keeping as far away as possible. These are creatures of the wild and aren’t pets.
So, you shouldn’t be touching them but putting measures to exclude them from your home.
Keep Off All Wild Animals
Whenever you come across wild animals, especially when they invade your space, it’s best to stay off and call for professional help.
Such may include skunks, opossums, raccoons, or any other. The need to keep your distance is to safeguard yourself from any aggression that could lead to diseases.
You want to avoid bites, scratches, or contact these animals for your safety and that of your family and pets.
Also, the reality that possums will hardly transmit Rabies when infected (although quite rare) shouldn’t make you careless around them.
Your best bet will be to keep off and find effective ways to repel them.
Keeping Opossums Out
Opossums are nocturnal creatures and love the dark. You can use this knowledge against them by providing adequate lighting to your yard or home surroundings.
These marsupials will also scavenge for food, with garbage cans being the target. You’ll need to have your garbage cans always covered.
Bird feeders are also attractions to them. Have bird feeders taken down and placed in a locked container to prevent access. You’ll also need to have your yard cleared of overripe fruits.
Set up a fence with the top bent outwards to keep possums out.
Over the years, humans have developed greater caution in dealing with wild animals. This is due to the spread of various diseases, including Rabies.
Now, Rabies is a viral disease that’s transmitted chiefly through bites or contact with infected animals. This disease affects the central nervous system of its host.
The effect is the infection of the brain and eventual death. Here, it would help if you avoided the bodily fluids of affected animals, such as saliva.
This is why contact with wild animals such as possums is creates fears in a lot of people. An often-asked question by many is whether possums are rabies carriers.
This article takes a deeper look at rabies transmission and discusses common diseases associated with possums.
As you read through, you already understand what possums are about and if they do transmit Rabies or other diseases.
Possums will rarely transmit Rabies. However, this doesn’t mean they won’t. We’ve discussed this and more and how to keep them out.