Do Opossums Carry Rabies?

Do opossums have rabies? We have provided answers in this article.

Encounters between humans and animals or pests are quite common. In most cases, such encounters aren’t pretty as they expose humans and pets to significant dangers.

Rabies is one fatal viral disease that’s highly contagious and can spread to both humans and pets.

It’s mostly spread from infected animals such as coyotes, raccoons, foxes, skunks, and rabid bats among others.

Rabies will readily get transmitted through direct contact. Possible points of transmission include broken skin or mucous membranes in the mouth, eyes, or nose.

Can Opossums Get Rabies?

One situation that’s worrisome to most homeowners is finding wild creatures around homes or yards.

If you’ve seen an opossum around your home, or have had recent contact, you may be interested in finding out if it carries rabies.

This is what our discussion will focus on.

Mammals Can Carry Rabies

The apprehension about opossums as possible rabies carriers is quite understandable because any mammal can carry or get rabies.

Examples of mammals that may be carriers of rabies include foxes, bats, skunks, raccoons, and coyotes.

So, if these mammals can get infected with rabies, does that make it likely for opossums to also carry the deadly virus? Opossums are also mammals.

This places them in the same category as others likely to get or carry rabies.

Are Opossums Rabies Carriers?

One of the things we’ll need to be clear about is whether opossums spread rabies.

There has been confusion about the potential of opossums to transmit rabies. Now, the truth is, rabies transmission in opossums is very rare. In other words, such cases aren’t common.

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Nevertheless, there have been a few reports about opossums carrying rabies. What makes it less likely for opossums to carry rabies?

To find out, we’ll need to discuss a little about their immune systems.

  • Immune Systems of Opossums

The easiest way to explain why cases of rabies transmission in opossums are rare is by understanding the immune systems of these marsupials. Of course, this will be kept brief to help with clarity and the avoidance of boredom

The body temperature of these marsupials plays a crucial role in their immunity against a wide variety of diseases.

Unlike a lot of mammals, opossums have a lower body temperature. Such low body temperature makes it difficult for many diseases including rabies to take hold in the animal’s body.

Although possible, it will be difficult for an opossum to carry rabies. This gives opossums an advantage or a considerable degree of immunity from rabies.

So, if you’ve seen an opossum around your property, it’s highly unlikely that it carries rabies.

Does This Make Opossums Safe?

While we’ve found out that the possibility of rabies transmission by opossums is quite slim, it’s important to assess other risks posed by their presence.

Opossums are carriers of other types of diseases which can be spread to both humans and domestic animals.

Examples of such diseases include leptospirosis and salmonella which are transmissible to humans through opossum droppings such as feces and urine.

The resulting health conditions can sometimes be fatal.

For transmissible diseases to animals, coccidiosis, tularemia, and equine protozoal myeloenchephalitis (EPM) are those that can be spread. Again, these are spread through opossum urine and feces.

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Because most animals will go about sniffing the urine and droppings of others, it makes them easily vulnerable to such transmissible diseases.

If you keep horses around, you’ll want to avoid having these marsupials around as horses are among the most vulnerable animals when it comes to opossum presence.

Are There Benefits?

So far, our discussion has focused on the negatives of having opossums around your property. This is due to the diseases transmitted to both humans and animals.

So, does that make them entirely bad?

Not exactly! While it’s necessary to keep away from them, there are certain clear benefits.

  • They Benefit the Ecosystem

These nocturnal creatures do a lot of good to the ecosystem. Such benefit is seen in their food preferences.

Possums feed on a variety of food sources including over-ripe berries and fruits littered on the ground as well as feeding on slugs and snails.

What more? With opossums, pests like rats, mice, and roaches are eliminated from your surroundings. Here, it’s obvious that their presence keeps certain pests at bay.

You’ll have to weigh your options to see whether it’s worth having them around or not.

  • Lyme Disease Prevention

Ticks are known to be a primary source of Lyme disease.

Such disease is transmissible to humans through bites from infected black-legged ticks. With possums around, your chances of contracting Lyme disease are slim.

This is because these marsupials are excellent groomers.

As a matter of fact, possums kill more than 95% of ticks on their body.

So, instead of making your surroundings a tick breeding ground as is common with other mammalian pests, possums kill them whenever they groom themselves.

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Weighing the Pros and Cons of Possum Presence

If you’re more concerned about the potential of rabies transmission, it’s highly unlikely that that will happen. The reasons have been given above. However, rabies is only one aspect of the problem.

Possum presence also exposes you to other types of diseases as listed earlier.

While discussing the diseases spread by possums, we’ve also mentioned those prevented by them. Here, it becomes necessary to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of possum presence.

As long as you don’t have any livestock around, you can live alongside these creatures by keeping away from them.

However, some homeowners may not have the tolerance for possums. There’s really nothing wrong with that. If you belong to this category of persons, you may want to have them excluded or kept at bay.

Keeping Opossums Out

Opossums are nocturnal creatures and love the dark. This knowledge can be used against them by providing adequate lighting to your yard or home surroundings.

These marsupials will also scavenge for food with garbage cans being the target. You’ll need to have your garbage cans always covered.

Bird feeders are also attractions to them. Have bird feeders taken down and placed in a locked container to prevent access. You’ll also need to have your yard cleared of overripe fruits.

Set up a fence with the top bent outwards to keep possums out.

Possums will rarely transmit rabies. However, this doesn’t mean they won’t. We’ve discussed this and more as well as how to keep them out.

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