Opossums go through garbage, hunt mice and snakes, and hang around roadkill – which exposes them to dangerous diseases like rabies.
So, the question is: do opossums carry rabies?
In brief, NO, Opossum/ possums are very unlikely to carry rabies. Opossums’ body temperature is too low to inhibit the rabies virus compared to other wildlife like foxes, skunks, raccoons, and bats.
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Cold Body Temperature – Do Opossums Carry Rabies
The opossum is just one of the many animals that are immune to rabies.
Opossums have a body temperature about as cold as ice, which helps them avoid the diseases even when they consume infected food or water sources.
Their immunity isn’t a result of their cool blood; it’s because their bodies produce antibodies around the clock, day in and day out, against almost every virus you can think up – including rabies.
- Opossums also heal fast from wounds due to bacteria-fighting cells called macrophages on top of those constant antibody production levels protecting their huge stomach lining.
Opossums have a low body temperature level which scientists believe may hold clues to the animal’s extraordinary resistance to rabies.
Only once in a blue moon does an opossum carry rabies (it’s more than likely just regular old flu). The threat of leptospirosis, caused by bacteria, is much more common in Opossums.
Opossums are known carriers of leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can be transmitted via contact with the animal’s feces and urine in the soil.
- Opossums aren’t necessarily known for their hygiene – and so as they drive into the trash, they may get those parasites causing diseases like leptospirosis.
Many of these parasites cause bites and nips on the human ankles and feet.
- Further, opossums won’t carry or contract Lyme Illness despite carrying ticks.
If you are concerned about your pets and family members contracting the leptospirosis bacteria from an opossum excreting, there are some preventative measures that could help.
Related: Cat Fleas Vs Dog Fleas
What does a rabid opossum do?
Rabies is comparably rare in opossums because of their cooler body temperature. But, can possums be rabid?
Well, Yes, the Center for Disease Control notes that Rabid opossums show symptoms such as reduced appetite, lethargy, vomiting, fever, and seizures.
Signs of rabies progress in the rabid opossum condition include excessive salivation, self-mutilation, aggression, abnormal behavior, challenges in swallowing & breathing, paralysis, weakness, cerebral dysfunction, & cranial nerve dysfunction.
Does Hissing in Opossum Signify Being Rabid?
Hissing in opossums is not an indicator of being rabid. The sound the animals make can be triggered by a number of reasons, such as when they are mating or fighting with each other.
It also occurs when they get startled and have been known to hiss because their fur is caught on something like branches from trees that humans disturbed while passing through their territory.
- Opossums may hiss if they feel threatened when cornered. They won’t always do this unless they are frightened, but it is a defense tactic to scare away other animals.
- To scare predators, the opossums can also produce some repugnant smell, growl, bare their teeth, and hiss – and so these not signs of being rabid.
If you have a problem with opossums, call your exterminator for help. They will come for an inspection and possible safe removal.
Related: Extermination cost for Mice
Do Opossums Bite?
Typically, opossums may bite when threatened or cornered. They might also bare their teeth in a threat display or hiss as well.
However, opossums may equally act dead and do not move when threatened.
Opossums may also bite if they are injured or struggling to get free from being captured in a person’s hands, but this is relatively rare.
– Do Opossum have teeth? Yes, most often small incisors that grow throughout their life and wear down as the animal ages.
– They can use these teeth for chewing food or defending themselves with a quick nip at an intruder who is getting too close.
Further, hissing is another defensive behavior that may be exhibited when an opossum is threatened.
It is rare for opossums to bite humans, but it can happen. So people should stay away from wild animals in the wilderness if they are not vaccinated against rabies or other diseases.
Which Diseases Do Opossums Carry?
Opossums carry a relatively low risk of carrying rabies but they may have dangerous pathogen and germs that’ll lead to illnesses like leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis causes flu-like symptoms and is caused by bacteria in contaminated bodily fluids and urine from infected Opossum.
The disease may infect rodents, squirrels, skunks, and raccoons but fail to show outright signs.
The disease can be passed on to humans through contact with infected animal’s urine or by breathing in infectious droplets from an animal sneezing or coughing nearby.
- Prevent this illness from happening by wearing gloves when handling possums, keeping your yard clean of trash where they may live (build a fence if necessary)
Humans who contract Leptospirosis may fail to show symptoms for weeks or months and they may include fever, headache, chills, muscle aches.
To avoid leptospirosis – especially from wild animals, stay away from places that may be contaminated with wildlife urine or water sources like swamps, rivers, and lakes.
Related: How to get rid of raccoons
Don’t let Opossums into Your Yard
Without proper understanding and preparation, Opossums can pose a risk to domestic pets in your area.
Opossums require time and a place to warm up, so they are not likely to enter your yard during the day.
- They feed on fruits, snakes, vegetables, mice, nuts, and insects; however, their diet can be broadened by scavenging for any edible material such as garbage or pet food left outside.
Opossums are one of the few animals that can’t get rabies but they can carry other diseases such as the plague, roundworm, and leptospirosis.
The animal’s droppings could contaminate your yard with E-coli or salmonella.
Opossums can also cause a nuisance by attempting to get into trash cans, dog houses, or any small spaces where they would feel safe from predators.
The Shy and Reserved Opossums
Possums are typically docile, so you can deal with them gently by nudging them away. You can also go towards them and speak in a slow, gentle voice to convince them that you are not any kind of threat.
- If they do not move after these actions then try scooping him up by placing your hands under their stomach and lifting upwards slowly.
If the possum still does not want to leave, or if there is more than one present, you will have to use a little bit of force on the animal so he knows who’s boss!
Opossums are often misidentified as rabies carriers because of their strange drool and hissing habits – but they use these for their defense.
The opossum primarily resides in one location for a short period of time, six months typically; they’re transient animals – they’re introverted and reclusive.
- Opossums are very protective of their dens and move often if their homes are disturbed.
Opossums will contract or spread disease when they feast on dead animals. Even if the disease doesn’t transmit to the opossum, there are risks of acquiring diseases from eating rotting flesh.
Opossums are shy and reserved animals that tend to spend the majority of their time inside of their burrows, only coming out when it’s dark and no one will see them. This naturally prevents them from contracting various illnesses.
Opossums are fascinating, but they’re fearsome predators too. Read more to find out how opossums use their special defense mechanisms against predators while conserving energy and remaining healthy themselves!
So, in conclusion, do opossums carry rabies? No, they do not; thanks to their colder bodies that inhibit the rabies virus.
But opossums will carry other diseases such as leptospirosis that can spread to humans, so it’s always important to observe caution when you are around them.
Wild animals that’ll carry rabies include raccoons, foxes, and skunks.
As you can see, opossums do not carry rabies!
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