What Diseases do North American Opossums carry?

As nocturnal creatures with a distinctive appearance and fascinating behavior, North American opossums, also known as Virginia opossums, have become a common sight in many residential areas. While these marsupials play a crucial role in the ecosystem by keeping certain pest populations in check, they can also pose potential health risks. In this blog post, we will delve into some of the diseases carried by North American opossums, highlighting the importance of wildlife removal measures to mitigate the risks.


Rabies is a viral disease that affects the nervous system and is often associated with wildlife, including opossums. While opossums themselves are rarely carriers of rabies, they can become secondary hosts if bitten by an infected animal. It is crucial to exercise caution around any wild animal exhibiting aggressive behavior or displaying signs of rabies, such as frothing at the mouth, disorientation, or paralysis.

Lyme Disease

Although ticks are the primary carriers of Lyme disease, studies have suggested that opossums may play a role in reducing the spread of this tick-borne illness. Opossums are known to groom themselves frequently, which helps remove ticks from their fur. Additionally, they have a lower body temperature than other mammals, making it less favorable for ticks to survive and transmit the disease. While opossums themselves are generally not affected by Lyme disease, their presence in an area may help reduce the tick population and subsequently lower the risk of transmission to humans and other animals.


One of the primary concerns associated with North American opossums is the transmission of leptospirosis. This bacterial infection affects both humans and animals, and it is usually spread through contact with the urine or bodily fluids of infected opossums. Leptospirosis can cause a range of symptoms, including high fever, headache, muscle aches, and in severe cases, liver or kidney damage.


Opossums can also carry salmonella bacteria, which can be transmitted through feces, contaminated surfaces, or direct contact. Salmonellosis leads to symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and nausea. Unlike other nuisance species like raccoons, opossums do not poop in a single latrine site. Instead, they are found to poop wherever they are. Proper hygiene practices, such as handwashing and avoiding contact with opossum feces, are essential to prevent infection.

Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis

Spotted fever rickettsiosis is a bacterial disease transmitted by ticks, and opossums can serve as hosts for these parasites. Although opossums themselves do not exhibit symptoms, the ticks that infest them can transmit the disease to humans. Symptoms of spotted fever rickettsiosis may include fever, headache, rash, and muscle pain. Tick control and prevention strategies are crucial in minimizing the risk of contracting this disease.


Ectoparasites and Fleas

Opossums are often hosts to various ectoparasites, including fleas, mites, and ticks. These parasites can infest the opossum's fur and subsequently spread to other animals or humans, causing discomfort and potential health issues. It is important to maintain a clean and pest-free environment to prevent infestations and reduce the risk of flea-borne diseases.

Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM)

EPM is a neurological disease that affects horses, and opossums are considered one of the definitive hosts of the parasite responsible for its transmission. Opossums become infected by consuming the carcasses of infected animals, such as birds or rodents. The parasites can then shed in the opossum's feces and contaminate the environment. Horses can become infected by ingesting food or water contaminated with opossum feces. Proper management and prevention strategies can help reduce the risk of EPM transmission from opossums to horses.


Toxoplasmosis is caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which can infect a wide range of warm-blooded animals, including opossums. Opossums can become infected by consuming infected prey or through environmental contamination. While opossums themselves do not play a significant role in the transmission of toxoplasmosis to humans, their presence can indicate the potential presence of infected prey animals, such as rodents, which could pose a risk if not properly managed. Prevention is the best form of pest control, contact us for more information about our pest control programs. 


While North American opossums contribute positively to the ecosystem by controlling certain pests, they can also carry diseases that pose potential risks to human health. Understanding the diseases associated with opossums and implementing effective pest control and wildlife removal strategies are crucial steps in minimizing these risks. By promoting proper hygiene practices, maintaining a clean living environment, and seeking professional assistance when necessary, we can coexist with wildlife while safeguarding our health and well-being.

Remember, if you encounter opossums or have concerns about diseases they may carry, it is always best to consult with local pest control and wildlife removal professionals who can provide guidance and assistance tailored to your specific situation.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is intended for general knowledge purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. For specific concerns regarding diseases carried by North American opossums or wildlife removal, it is advisable to consult with a qualified pest control or wildlife removal expert.

Contact Your Local Wildlife Removal Experts, Summit Wildlife Removal, For Quick Opossum Removal in Fairfax, Alexandria & Arlington, VA.

Contact us online or give us a call at 703-884-2124 when you need our services. For dog or cat issues, contact your local municipal animal control office.


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