As fall approaches, so does hunting season! Sportsmen and sportswomen who enjoy hunting, camping, hiking or other activities need to be prepared for disease-causing bacteria that may be waiting for them. According to Guy Moore, a wildlife biologist with Texas Department of State Health Services, “outdoor activities bring a greater risk of exposure to diseases transmitted by fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and other animals.”
Some of these germ carriers are:
- Wild hogs, which can carry brucellosis, a bacterial disease.
- Deer, which can transmit anthrax, a bacterium that can cause a severe, life-threatening disease in both animals and humans.
- Fleas and some animals such as squirrels, cats, rats, prairie dogs, and mice can transmit plague to humans.
- Mice can spread hantavirus infection to people. They shed the virus in droppings, urine and saliva, and upon drying, these excretions can spread in the air on dust particles.
- Ticks – an infected tick can cause Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.
- Mosquitoes, of course, are a nuisance and can carry organisms that cause encephalitis and West Nile infection.
- All warm-blooded animals are susceptible to rabies. Skunks, bats, coyotes and foxes are known carriers of rabies.
If you are still determined to go out there and enjoy the outdoors, don’t let us discourage you. Most of these illnesses are rare, with the exception of West Nile. Just keep these reminders handy:
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after handling game.
- Wear latex-type gloves when dressing game.
- Wear eye protection when dressing game.
- Use insect repellents containing DEET.
- Wear protective clothing, and light colored clothes so you can see ticks on your clothes.
- Stay away from overgrown brush and tall grass if possible.
- Do not touch antlers, bones, hides or other parts of dead animals.
Now, more safety tips for hunters:
- Be sure you take your cell phone and tell someone where you plan to hunt and when you plan to return home.
- Don’t hunt alone.
- Wear hi-visibility vest and cap – hunter orange.
- Keep your equipment in good condition.
- Be sure of your target before you pull the trigger.
- Watch for snakes, and keep your distance.
- Be sure to carry a first-aid kit.
- Never wave to another hunter; shout loudly and clearly.
- Be sure treestands are in good condition; use a harness to climb in and out of stand.
- Unload your rifle when you get back to camp; assume that every gun in the camp is loaded until you can see the action is open and it is safe to handle.
Remember: Your safety is your responsibility!
USDA Forest Service