Chances are, if you have come across an opossum or possum, rabies might have crossed your mind. And you’re smart to feel that way because all mammals carry rabies.
According to the World Health Organization, rabies is one of the viruses that attack the brain and causes 59,000 deaths per year. In this article, we want to look at:
- Whether opossums are immune to rabies
- Signs of rabid opossums
- Precautions that you need to put in place
Let’s dive right in
Are Opossum Immune to Rabies
Rabies is a virus that affects only warm-blooded animals with fur. An opossum is a pouched mammal or marsupial that is cold-blooded. Their body temperature is too low and can’t sustain the spread of rabies. It is rare for an opossum to have rabies because its body temperature is 94 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes rabies struggle to survive. Since their body temperature is too low, rabies can’t survive and thrive under such conditions.
According to scientists, mammalian viruses survive and thrive in a warm environment. That explains why viruses can’t survive outside. The rabies virus won’t affect birds or cold-blooded animals like reptiles or amphibians.
In all these species, the saliva of an infected mammal will have a rabies virus that can be spread via bites or scratches.
Like the Kangaroo, it also gives birth to young ones that develop inside a mother’s pouch. Opossums belong to a family called Family Didelphidae.
All wild animals are susceptible to rabies which means that you need to exercise caution when interacting with them, including opossums. And the last thing you want is for your pet to come into contact with an animal which is the case with rabies.
The rabies virus will die fast before it reaches the brain. The only exception is when the opossum gets bitten directly on the head or brain by a rabid animal like a skunk or raccoon. In this case, there are many viral loads for the animal to infect you or another animal if it doesn’t die immediately.
Opossums don’t transmit the rabies virus, but they only carry the virus. In short, they are carriers, but that shouldn’t give you a sign of relief because scientists are still studying rabies in opossums. In other words, more research is needed to arrive at a better conclusion.
Although opossums don’t transmit rabies, they don’t transmit other diseases that are harmful to pets and humans. Such diseases include salmonella, leptospirosis, and other diseases.
In short, an opossum can’t transmit rabies when it bites you or your pet. The reason is, that rabies can’t survive in extremely low temperatures. That said, make sure your kids and pets don’t come closer to the wild animals or be at risk of being bitten or scratched.
However, you and your pet can still get infected by other diseases opossums transmit, such as salmonella and leptospirosis. When bitten by this creature make sure to seek medical advice fast. That way, you will stay away from rabies and other diseases.
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Signs of a Rabid Opossum
According to studies, opossums are carriers of rabies diseases. And rabies is transmitted through a bite. Every warm-blooded animal can get the rabies virus, and in most cases, it comes from dogs, cats, and bats. Once an animal gets infected, the virus spreads to the brain quickly before spreading to other parts of the body. Here are the signs:
Moves or Walks During the Day
A sick opossum will move or walk during the day during broad daylight. That is a sign of listlessness-the art of moving from one place to another in a restless manner. Second, the Opossum will display a high level of heightened aggression, which you’ll rarely see in a healthy opossum.
Third, a rabid opossum will show an unnatural boldness when they see humans. In other words, they won’t “play dead”; or hide. However, it would help if you didn’t confuse an opossum walking in broad daylight as rabid because they do come out in search of warmth during the winter. Like other animals, if they find the nest too cold. They will come out to seek warmth.
When a mother opossum gives birth, it may be forced to come out during the spring or summer to fetch food for her babies. That said, the opossum that you see may be a mother looking for food. On a few occasions, the opossum may be outside when its shelter or nest is destroyed. Therefore, it’s safe to say an opossum you find outside may not be rabid.
You won’t know if an opossum or any other animal has rabies by looking. The sure way of knowing that is through laboratory testing. What we know so far is that animals with rabies will act strangely. Sometimes an opossum may drool more than normal. Bear in mind that some opossums may not show the signs of rabies at all, although they are carriers. That said, you must leave an opossum alone when you see one.
If you see an opossum acting strangely, you can call the local pest exterminator or local animal control officer for assistance.
To prevent opossums from getting into your yard, you can use hardware cloth wire like this one when sealing the entries. Opossums can’t tear this fence.
Precautions You Need to Put in Place
If you have been bitten or scratched by an opossum, you need to talk to a healthcare provider to determine the risk for rabies or other diseases. One way of knowing whether you have rabies is if the healthcare providers get in touch with the animal that bites you and examines it.
As in the case of Opossums, it can be challenging to have the animal catch the animal. You can also use traps and ensure that your compound is clean to keep opossums from showing up.
Treat an opossum the way you would treat other wild animals. The key here is staying cautious and making your family and pets safe all the time. Bear in mind opossum can still transmit rabies depending on where it is bitten. However, its cold body temperature won’t allow the rabies virus to survive for that long. You are still not that safe.