Animal and Insect Hazards
Hantavirus is a deadly virus that was first recognized
as a unique health hazard in 1993. There are four different
strains of hantavirus, and cases have been reported in
30 different states. The virus is most active when the
temperature is between 45 and 72 degrees.
Hantavirus is spread through the urine and feces of
infected rodents. It is an airborne virus. A person is infected
by breathing in particles released into the air when infected
rodents, their nests, or their droppings are disturbed. This
can happen when a person is handling rodents, disturbing
rodent nests or burrows, cleaning buildings where rodents
have made a home, or working outdoors. The virus will die
quickly when exposed to sunlight.
Symptoms of hantavirus include fever, chills, muscle
aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and a
dry, nonproductive cough. If you suspect that someone
has been infected, consult a physician immediately.
Rabies has become increasingly prevalent in the United
States in recent years, with more than 7,000 animals, most
of which are wild, found to have the disease each year,
according to statistics released by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC). This viral infection is often
found in bats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. Rabies can be
transmitted by warm-blooded animals, including domestic
dogs and cats.
Although rabies in humans is rare in the United States,
the CDC reports that more than 22,000 people in this
country require vaccination each year after being exposed
to rabid or potentially rabid animals. States with the
highest number of reported cases include New York,
New Jersey, Connecticut, New Mexico, Texas, Massachusetts,
Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Maryland,
and parts of northern California.
Scout leaders can help prevent possible exposure to
rabies by reminding Scouts to steer clear of wild animals
and domestic animals that they don’t know. If someone
is scratched or bitten by a potentially rabid animal, Scout
- Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.
- Call a doctor or a hospital emergency room.
- Get a description of the animal.
- Notify the local animal control office, police
department, or board of health.
Ticks can be a problem in wooded areas and campsites,
and they can be carriers of Lyme disease. The disease is
transmitted when a blood-sucking tick attaches itself to
and feeds on its victim. Ticks frequently imbed themselves
in hair or around the belt line or ankles; they are visible,
A red ringlike rash might appear around the bite.
A victim might feel lethargic and have flulike symptoms,
fever, a sore throat, and muscle aches. Anyone experiencing
these symptoms in the days and weeks following a trek
adventure, especially activities in areas where ticks are
known to carry Lyme disease, should be checked by
Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes that are or could be encountered in the United States include dengue, West Nile fever, St. Louis encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis, and Eastern equine encephalitis. Others, such as those caused by the Chikungunya and Zika viruses, have not been shown to be acquired in the continental United States, but potentially could be. Specifically for the Zika virus, those who are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant (including potential fathers) need to discuss those plans with their physician prior to travel.
Generally, there are no immunizations available for these diseases; therefore, prevention of mosquito bites is the best way to assure protection and to prevent spread of disease. The CDC has produced a great summary on mosquito bite prevention for the United States, which can be found at www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/pdfs/fs_mosquito_bite_prevention_us.pdf. An infographic for travel outside the continental United States is also available at www.cdc.gov/chikungunya/pdfs/fs_mosquito_bite_prevention_travelers.pdf.
The following additional resources may be helpful:
We encourage you to stay up to date for changes as public health officials are monitoring these and other mosquito-borne illnesses on a daily basis and are continually making new and significant recommendations.