September 1’s start to hunting season in Texas has prompted the Texas Department of State Health Services to remind hunters to protect themselves from diseases that can spread from animals to humans.
Two animals in Edwards County were recently confirmed with anthrax, a disease caused by naturally occurring bacteria present in the soil worldwide. Animals usually get the disease by swallowing anthrax spores while grazing, and people can get anthrax by handling infected animals, whether alive or dead, or eating their meat.
Illnesses such as tularemia, brucellosis and rabies can also be transmitted to people through direct contact with live animals or while dressing game that has been killed. West Nile virus, Lyme disease, plague and other diseases transmitted by insects and ticks also are a concern.
“Using insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants can help protect against mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses,” said Dr. Tom Sidwa, manager of DSHS’s Zoonosis Control Branch. “Some common sense measures like wearing gloves while dressing game and washing your hands afterward can minimize the risk of other infections.”
DSHS recommends the following precautions to limit the risk of contracting diseases that can be transmitted by wildlife:
- Do not harvest animals that appear ill or are acting abnormally.
- Wear latex-type gloves when dressing game.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling game. If soap is not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good alternative.
- Consider eye protection when dressing game to prevent contact between fluids or tissues and eyes. Shooting glasses provide an adequate level of protection in most cases.
- Avoid eating, drinking, using tobacco, or rubbing eyes while dressing game.
- Do not touch non-hunter-killed dead animals or their remains, including antlers, bones and hides.
- Use an approved insect repellent and follow the instructions on the label. EPA-approved repellents include those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and oil of lemon eucalyptus/p-Menthane-3,8-diol.
- Stay on trails and avoid areas of overgrown brush and tall grasses.
- Wear protective clothing such as a hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants tucked into boots or socks, and check frequently for ticks.
- Avoid camping or picnicking near rodent and prairie dog burrows.
Additional disease information for hunters and other outdoors enthusiasts is available at http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/idcu/health/zoonosis/outdoor/outtips.pdf.
Sept. 1 marked the opening of dove season in most areas of the state, the first of the 2014-2015 hunting seasons. Seasons for other animals will begin over the next few months.