Do Squirrels Carry Disease? Here’s How You Can Protect Yourself

Squirrels are everywhere in our cities, neighbourhoods, and backyards.

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While they may be cute and funny to watch, these are wild animals with the potential to carry disease. It is important that you keep your distance. Squirrels will bite if you get too close, and you could get very sick. 

If you have been hurt by a squirrel, you should seek medical attention right away. A doctor can prescribe you with the right medication so that you do not get sick. Here’s a list of squirrel diseases and what you should do to keep squirrels off your property.

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Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that is spread in the urine of infected animals. Humans and pets have been known to become infected by touching contaminated puddles or soil. In humans, symptoms include headaches, fever, jaundice, rashes, and vomiting. Many infections occur in two phases, the second of which leading to liver failure or meningitis. 

Lyme disease 

Lyme disease is carried by ticks, which infect squirrels and other wildlife when they bite. Though it cannot be transmitted from squirrel to human, squirrels may be hosts to infected ticks. Symptoms of Lyme disease include rash, fever, chills, fatigue, headache, and swollen lymph nodes. Lyme disease is deadly without treatment. Better to keep your distance from squirrels than to be bitten by a tick.

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Salmonella is a common bacteria found in the intestinal tract of many animals. It is shed through the feces of infected animals, then picked up in contaminated food and water. Squirrels spread the disease by contaminating homes with their feces. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramping. 


Also known as Rabbit Fever, Tularemia is a bacterial disease that is transmitted through the handling of infected animal tissue. The disease may also be inhaled, consumed in contaminated water, or spread through the bites of infected ticks. Symptoms include coughing, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. 


Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is an infection that causes jaw cramping, muscle spasms, stiffness, seizures, and more. Squirrels may carry the disease and transmit it to humans through bites or scratches. If you have been injured by a squirrel, see a doctor immediately for treatment.  


While it is extremely rare, squirrels have the potential to carry the rabies virus and spread it to humans. Rabies is spread when infected animals bite or scratch. It affects the central nervous system, causing delirium, hallucinations, and insomnia before death. 

How to Keep Squirrels Out of the Home

Squirrels usually nest in trees, but they will happily come live in your attic if there is an opening. Invasions are especially common in the spring, when pregnant females need a place to nurse their young, and in the fall, when both sexes need to escape the cold. 

Cover your roof vents and chimneys 

The most direct way you can avoid a squirrel invasion is to keep them off your vents. Squirrels have incredibly strong teeth that can tear through plastic and aluminum. As such, they often use roof vents as an entryway to the attic. Cover these with a thick steel mesh. Purchase a 16-gauge, galvanized steel mesh from the hardware store and screw it right into the roof. 

Seal the edges of the roof with mesh 

Like the roof vents, squirrels have no trouble chewing their way through wooden gaps in the roof. Check the edges of your roof for cracks and seal them shut. Many older houses develop gaps here, letting in squirrels and raccoons. Use metal flashing to seal these gaps shut. If it’s too much work, contact a wildlife remover for help. 

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Cut your trees back 

Help keep squirrels off your roof by cutting back the branches that hang over it. Cut them 4 feet back, at least. If you cannot do it safely, hire a local arborist. You should also stay on top of your landscaping to keep squirrels away. Trim your bushes, cut the grass, and pull weeds. Trim back vines and empty out the gutters. 

Limit access to food

Squirrels like to nest where they can find food, so do your best to limit this resource in the yard. Pick up fruit when they fall to the ground and cover your vegetable garden with an ultralight mesh. Store garbage cans in the garage or in a shed until collection day and keep them covered at all times. If you like to feed the birds, switch to a hanging suet feeder and hang it as far as possible so that squirrels cannot reach it.


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