Zoonotic diseases in the Northeast

Zoonotic diseases in the Northeast

This list features the zoonotic diseases that are more likely to be encountered in the Northeast. The names of the more significant diseases are shown in all capitals and boldface type.

Sample listing:

Disease name

Agent (what causes disease)

Vectors (animal carriers in the Northeast)

Route (how people catch the disease)—see box

Symptoms in people


Ancylostomiasis, Cutaneous larval migrans, Creeping eruptions

Agent: Parasite (hookworm)

Vectors: People, dogs, cats

Route: Worm burrows into skin; ingestion

Symptoms: Meandering, itchy red lines on skin

Agent: Bacteria (spores)

Vectors: Most mammals, mostly food animals, rabbits, mice

Route: Inhalation; ingestion; wound/eye/nose/mouth via contact with infected carcass

Symptoms: (Two forms) Flu-like. Pustules on skin. Cough, respiratory failure. Vomiting, diarrhea. Can be fatal.


Agent: Fungal spores

Vectors: None, but grows in soil enriched by bird and bat droppings (esp. pigeons, poultry)

Route: Inhalation

Symptoms: Mild, flu-like, pneumonia


Agent: Parasite (protozoa)

Vectors: Wild and domestic animals, white-footed mouse, meadow vole, and white-tailed deer (via tick)

Route: Tick bite

Symptoms: Irregular fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, fatigue

Botulism (food poisoning)

Agent: Bacterial toxin

Vectors: Birds, mammals

Route: Ingestion

Symptoms: Nausea, vomiting, disturbed vision, weakness.


Agent: Bacteria

Vectors: Hoofed animals

Route: Ingestion (milk); fecal-oral; wound/eye/nose/mouth

Symptoms: Intermittent fever, chills, headache, body aches, weakness, weight loss


Agent: Bacteria

Vectors: Hoofed animals, feral cats and dogs, birds, young animals

Transmission routes (how people catch disease): Fecal-oral: Person touches contaminant and then, with unwashed hands, touches mouth.Ingestion: Person eats or drinks contaminated product. Inhalation: Person breathes in disease agent. Wound/eye/nose/mouth: The contaminant invades a person’s wound, eyes, nose, or mouth.

Route: Fecal-oral

Symptoms: Sudden gastrointestinal disease, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever. Pseudoappendicitis.

Cat scratch disease

Agent: Bacteria

Vectors: Feral cats, dogs, squirrels

Route: Cat bites, scratches, or licks person

Symptoms: Fever, malaise, swollen lymph nodes


Agent: Fungal spores

Vectors: Pigeons, starlings

Route: Inhalation; ingestion

Symptoms: Meningitis. Can be fatal.


Agent: Parasite (protozoa)

Vectors: Rodents, birds (poultry), ruminants, fish, reptiles, domestic animals

Route: Fecal-oral; waterborne; wound/eye/nose/mouth

Symptoms: Enteritis, diarrhea, low fever, malaise, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps


Agent: Fungus (ringworm)

Vectors: Dog, cat, cattle, horses, coyote, fox, other mammals, birds

Route: Wound/eye/nose/mouth

Symptoms: Ring-like lesion, scaling, redness

ENCEPHALITIS (several related diseases, including West Nile, Eastern,Western, and St. Louis encephalitis) Agent:Viruses

Vectors: Birds, bats, some rodents, jackrabbits (via mosquitoes)

Route: Mosquito bites

Symptoms: Mild flu-like to severe. Can be fatal. (There’s a high fatality rate in horses afflicted with Eastern equine encephalitis.)

Ehrlichiosis (two forms)

Agent: Bacteria (rickettsia)

Vectors: Dog, cattle, other mammals (probably via tick)

Route:Tick bite?

Symptoms: Flu-like, sometimes a rash appears.


Agent: Parasite (protozoa)

Vectors: People, dogs, beaver

Route: Fecal-oral; ingestion; environmental contamination (water)

Symptoms: Diarrhea, greasy, frothy, smelly feces, cramps, flatulence.


Agent: Virus

Vectors: Deer mice, white-footed mice

Route: Inhalation, rodent bite

Symptoms: Flu-like. Can be fatal.


Agent: Fungal spores

Vectors: None, but grows in soil enriched by bird and bat droppings (especially pigeons)

Route: Inhalation

Symptoms: Mild, flu-like, pneumonia. Can be fatal.

Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease)

Agent: Bacteria

Vectors: Rodents, rabbits, fox, skunk, raccoon, opossum, deer

Route: Fecal-oral; ingestion; wound/eye/nose/mouth

Symptoms: Fever, jaundice, pain in stomach, joints, or muscles, nausea. Can be fatal.


Agent: Bacteria

Vectors: Wild rodents (some mice, chipmunks), raccoon, deer, rabbits, birds (via deer/black-legged tick)

Route:Tick bite

Symptoms: Flu-like, rash, arthritis


Agent: Virus

Vectors: House mouse and rats

Route: Inhalation; fecal-oral; rodent bites

Symptoms: Flu-like. Inflammation of testes, joint pain, paralysis, coma.


Agent: Parasites (mites)

Vectors: Dog, cat, fox, coyote,rodents, other mammals

Route: Mite bites; wound/eye/nose/mouth

Symptoms: Crusty, red rash between fingers, on back of hands and arms.


Agent: Bacteria

Vectors: Birds (especially pigeons), parakeets, poultry, waterfowl

Route: Inhalation, especially from dry feces

Symptoms: Flu-like, anorexia, pneumonia. Can be fatal.

Q (query) fever

Agent: Bacteria

Vectors: Mammals (especially sheep, goats), birds

Route: Wound/eye/nose/mouth

Symptoms: Flu-like, high fevers. Pneumonia. Hepatitis.

Can be fatal (rarely).


Agent: Virus

Vectors: Mammals, especially raccoon, striped skunk, foxes, bats

Route:Animal bite or scratch; wound/eye/nose/mouth; rarely, inhalation

Symptoms: Paralysis, convulsions, coma. Nearly always fatal.


Agent: Parasite (roundworm)

Vectors: Raccoons

Route: Fecal-oral

Symptoms: Nausea, tiredness, enlarged liver, loss of coordination, coma. Can be fatal.

Rickettsial pox

Agent: Bacteria (rickettsia)

Vector: House mice

Route: Mite bite

Symptoms: resemble chicken pox.

Rocky mountain spotted fever

Agent: Bacteria (rickettsia)

Vectors: Wild rodents, rabbits, hares, carnivores, birds

(via tick)

Route:Tick bite

Symptoms: Rapid onset fever, headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, rash, loss of muscle control. Can be fatal.

Ingestion: Person eats or drinks contaminated product. Inhalation: Person breathes in disease agent. Wound/eye/nose/mouth: The contaminant invades a person’s wound, eyes, nose, or mouth.

Transmission routes (how people catch disease): Fecal-oral: Person touches contaminant and then, with unwashed hands, touches mouth.

Salmonellosis (food poisoning)

Agent: Bacteria

Vectors: Rodents, swine, cattle, wild birds, poultry, pet reptiles (turtles, iguanas, etc.)

Route: Ingestion; wound/eye/nose/mouth

Symptoms: Sudden headache, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting

Schistosomiasis (Swimmer’s itch)

Agent: Parasite

Vectors: Rodents, waterfowl

Route: Waterborne (can penetrate intact skin)

Symptoms: Rash


Agent: Fungal spores

Vectors: Cats, dogs, horses, soil, plants

Route: wound/eye/nose/mouth via soil or plants

Symptoms: Skin lesions, spreads along lymph nodes.

Toxocariasis, Visceral larval migrans

Agent: Parasite (roundworm)

Vectors: Dog, cat, raccoon, other mammals Route: Ingestion of eggs (soil, contam. Items)

Symptoms: Fever, cough, wheezing. Eye problems, brain damage.


Vectors: Cats

Route: Fecal-oral; ingestion (of contaminated eggs in meat)

Symptoms: Fever, malaise, muscle pain, headache. Can be fatal.


Agent: Bacteria

Vectors: Wild rodents, rabbits, hares, muskrats, carnivores, birds, hoofed animals (deer), bull snakes Route: Bites from ticks or biting insects; Inhalation; Ingestion. Can penetrate intact skin.

Symptoms: Mild to severe. Pneumonia, ulcer at bite site, swollen lymph nodes, death.


Agent: Bacteria (rickettsia)

Vector: Rodents (inc. rats, mice, squirrels), opossum  (via rat flea or body louse)

Route: Flea or lice bites; inhalation;wound/eye/nose/mouth

Symptoms: Fever, severe headache, chills, general pains, possible rash.

In the Northeast, these are the diseases you’d most likely be exposed to by…


  • Rabies (any mammal, but most commonly from skunks, raccoons, foxes, bats)
  • Raccoon roundworm (mostly raccoons. Also: mice, squirrels, woodchucks, rabbits)
  • Histoplasmosis (from bat roosts and caves, not directly from bats)
  • Hantavirus (deer mouse, white-footed mouse)
  • Mange (foxes, coyotes, squirrels)
  • Toxoplasmosis (contact with contaminated meat, cat feces, or soil)


  • Histoplasmosis (from bird roosts, poultry barns, not directly from birds)


  • Salmonellosis
  • There are some venomous snakes in the Northeast.


  • West Nile virus (mostly from mosquito bites)
  • Lyme disease (from ticks. People are most likely to be infected from May through July).


  • Falls
  • Car accidents
  • Heat-related illnesses
  • Tetanus infection (puncture wound, contact with infected nail) or other infections from wounds
  • Exposure to toxic substances such as pesticides, and fiberglass, that are often found in attics
  • Electrocution, and other hazards caused by dangerous sites