It’s enough to make you sick, literally. But every year, outdoorsmen become ill from injesting pathogens in their game meat that could have been easily prevented. Maybe a dirty knife or unclean hands spread the contamination after butchering game, or your roasted rabbit was done too rare. It’s important to know what you are up against, and just as important to avoid or kill these nasties.

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. The rabies virus is mainly in the saliva and brain tissue of rabid animals. It can be transmitted through a bite or by getting saliva or brain tissue in a wound. On rare occasions, rabies can be contracted when the virus enters the eye or mouth.

Only mammals get rabies; birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians do not. Skunks, bats, foxes, raccoons, dogs, cats, and some farm animals are most likely to get rabies. Rabbits, squirrels, rats and mice, and small pets rarely get it.

If you are bitten by one of these animals, don’t panic–but don’t ignore the bite, either. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lots of water. Washing thoroughly will greatly lessen the chance of infection. Give first aid as you would for any wound.

If possible, capture the animal under a large box or can, or at least identify it before it runs away. Call an animal control or law enforcement officer to come get it, if you can.

It’s critically important that you notify your family doctor immediately and explain how you got the bite. Your doctor will want to know if the animal has been captured. If necessary, your doctor will give the anti-rabies treatment recommended by the United States Public Health Service. Your doctor will also treat you for other possible infections that could be caused from the bite.

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (Virus)
This disease, caused by infection with a variety of hantaviruses, was first recognized in 1993 in the southwestern United States. Since then, several pathogenic hantaviruses have been identified in the U.S., and each virus has a single rodent host. The deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) is the host for Sin Nombre virus. The deer mouse is common and widespread in rural areas throughout much of the country. Other hantaviruses associated with sigmodontine rodents and known to cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome include the New York virus, which is hosted by the whitefooted mouse (Peromyscus leucopus); the Black Creek Canal virus, which is hosted by the cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus); and the Bayou virus, which is hosted by the rice rat (Oryzomys palustris).

Nearly the entire continental United States falls within the range of one or more of these host species.

Early symptoms in humans include fever, headaches, myalgia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and chills. Later symptoms include severe respiratory distress due to pulmonary edema, which can be rapidly fatal. Humans are exposed through the inhalation of aerosolized rodent urine, feces, and saliva, as well as the handling of rodents. Prevention involves excluding rodents from homes and buildings including shelters and cabins, watching for signs of rodent infestation, and promptly removing any infestations. Those who regularly handle rodents are at increased risk for this disease and should contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more detailed safety precautions.

Tularemia (Bacterium)
Tularemia is a serious, life-threatening human disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. At least two subspecies are recognized: F. tularensis biovar tularensis (also known as type A) and tularensis biovar palaeartica (or type B). In North America, tularemia most commonly involves cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus spp.), black-tailed rabbits (Lepus californicus), snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus), beavers (Candor canadensis), and muskrats (Ondatra zibithecus).

Tularemia is highly infectious and can be transmitted by all known epidemiologic routes including bug bites, getting contaminated water in your eyes or mouth, blood or tissue contamination, inhalation and ingestion. Symptoms in people will vary depending on the route of exposure, but include fever and swollen lymph nodes, or pharyngitis and tonsillitis. Typhoidal tularemia presents with fever, chills, headaches, diarrhea, joint pain and weakness, and may be accompanied by bronchopneumonia. Pneumonia usually occurs after inhalation exposure.

Baylisascaris (Roundworm)
Baylisascaris procyonis is a large intestinal roundworm. It is indigenous in raccoons from North America and is most common in the Midwestern and Northeastern United States and along the West Coast. The adult worms produce eggs, which are shed in the feces. Once in the environment, the eggs can survive for years, and they are resistant to all common disinfectants. The larvae develop within the egg and are infective 2 to 4 weeks after shedding.

People and other animals become infected when they accidentally ingest the infective eggs. Clinical signs vary depending on the dose and site of migration, but worms moving into eyes, brains and lungs are commonly reported. Larvae migrating in the brain produce traumatic damage and inflammation, resulting in progressive central nervous system disease. Sources of infection include any areas or objects contaminated with raccoon feces. Raccoons will often defecate at the same place over and over, with latrines being found at the bases of trees, logs and rocks; in barns, lofts, or garages; and on decks, woodpiles, and roofs.

Caught a weird bug? Hope you got rid of it, and hope you don’t mind sharing your story in the comments.