Wild Animal Health Risks

Reservoirs, Vector Species, and Reportable, Notifiable, and Zoonotic Diseases

While addressing the reasons for which the animal has been presented, the veterinary medical team must also consider whether the animal poses additional disease risks that can threaten the health of people, other animals, or the environment. Furthermore, if any individuals become ill, discussions with their human healthcare providers about potential exposure to zoonotic diseases should be included among the steps taken.  The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have developed a medical alert wallet card, which people working with wildlife can carry with them to help with such discussions.

  • Reservoir or vector species are those in which the disease agent may be carried with or without the animal becoming ill. The following are just a few examples.
    • Raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats for rabies
    • Rodents, rabbits, and felines for plague
    • Armadillos and opossums for Chagas disease and New World Leishmania
    • Felines for toxoplasmosis
    • Badgers for tuberculosis
    • Rodents for Hantaviruses
    • Reptiles for salmonellosis
  • Reportable animal diseases are ones that when suspected or confirmed must be reported immediately or depending on the state, within 24 hours, to your State Veterinarian and your state's USDA/APHIS/VS Area Veterinarian in Charge (AVIC).
  • Notifiable Diseases are ones that when suspected or confirmed must be reported within a set timeframe that is generally less urgent than reportable diseases and that is established by the respective states.
    • Check with your State Veterinarian's office to find out which animal disease are notifiable in your state. Some states may not have a separate list of notifiable animal diseases and may simply have a list of reportable animal diseases.
    • Your state or territory's Department of Public Health maintains a list of notifiable diseases of public health concern. If you suspect or confirm a disease on the public health list, you need to notify the proper authorities.
  • Zoonotic Diseases are ones caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between humans and animals.
    • Some, such as rabies, plague, and tularemia, may be reportable or notifiable, while others are not.
    • Regardless, animals with zoonotic illnesses may pose risks for veterinary staff, the public, and other susceptible animals; thus, appropriate safety precautions to prevent disease transmission must be taken.