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
West Nile Virus
West Nile Virus (WNV) develops in humans from
infected mosquito bites. Birds act as an intermediate host,
forming a reservoir of infection. Migrating birds introduce
the WNV into local ecosystems, where it may then continue
to reside in wintering species of mosquitoes in some areas
of the country, or be reintroduced to new hatches of
mosquitoes in the spring.
For every five humans infected with the virus, one has a
mild, febrile illness lasting 3 to 6 days, while approximately
one in 150 infected persons develops meningitis or encephalitis.
The incubation period ranges from 2 to 14 days. Mild
illness may include lethargy, eye pain, nausea, cramping and
a rash. Severe muscle weakness is also frequently a symptom.
The basis of preventing WNV in Scouts, Scouters, and
camp staff is a two-pronged program directed at mosquito
reduction and personal protection. By far the most important
aspect is personal protection. The Department of Defense
system of personal protection consists of treating clothing with
0.5 percent permethrin and treating exposed body surface
areas with DEET. Properly used, this combination can reduce
the incidence of mosquito bites by virtually 100 percent.
A 111-page document prepared by the Centers for Disease
Control that discusses WNV prevention strategies can be
downloaded in Adobe Acrobat format at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/