Animal Diseases

Both domestic and wild animals carry many diseases, parasites, and viruses. However, the majority of those diseases cause little harm to humans. We have listed 3 of the most common and serious illnesses that are transmittable to humans.

Rabies
Rabies occurs when a virus attacks the brain in warm-blooded animals. Once an animal or human contracts the virus and symptoms appear, the victim always dies. Reptiles and birds cannot contract or transmit the rabies virus.
Cat
Animals with rabies can survive for months before becoming sick and dying. During that time, the infected animal can pass the virus onto other animals and humans. You do not have to be bitten to contract rabies. The virus can be spread through any open wound or through direct contact with the eyes. By far, the rabies virus is one of the biggest concerns in our area. Raccoons, fox, and bats are the usual carriers. However, all warm-blooded animals can contract and transmit the disease. Yearly, hundreds of residents in our area receive rabies vaccinations after being exposed to the virus by a wild animal or their own pets.

Dogs & Cats
Occasionally domestic dogs contract rabies. However, one of the biggest risks to residents are free roaming cats. Residents who do not immunize their dogs, cats, and ferrets and who allow their cats to roam freely are placing themselves and their families at risk for rabies infection. Residents in our area should educate themselves about the rabies virus and learn how to protect their families and their pets.

Rabies Clinics
Rabies Clinics are held regularly at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington at a cost of $10 per domestic animal. Vaccines are not administered to pets that are considered wild animals. There is no proven rabies inoculation for the prevention of rabies in wild animals. Falls Church City residents are welcome at the clinic. Contact the Animal Welfare League of Arlington at 703-931-9241 or look online to confirm the clinic is being held.

Reptile-Associated Salmonella
Salmonella is a natural bacterium found in the gut of reptiles and snakes. Unfortunately, when the animal sheds the virus in their feces, their owners can contract it simply by handling the animal. It is illegal to own reptiles in Falls Church City. Owners of reptiles, lizards (especially iguanas), and snakes should familiarize themselves with this condition.

Psittacosis
Also known as "Parrot Fever," psittacosis is spread by a bacterial infection in birds and can be spread to humans. Psittacosis is acquired by inhaling dried secretions from infected birds. The incubation period is 6 to 19 days. Although all birds are susceptible, pet birds (parrots, parakeets, macaws, and cockatiels) and poultry (turkeys and ducks) are most frequently involved in transmission to humans.

Once infected, symptoms found in humans include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a dry cough. Humans can also contract severe pneumonia and other health problems. Psittacosis has been found in pet parrots in Falls Church City in the past.

Safety Tips
Read more safety tips to help avoid getting sick.