Opossums are scavengers, and they often visit human homes or settlements to raid garbage cans, dumpsters, and other containers. They are attracted to carrion and can often be spotted near roadkill. Opossums also eat grass, nuts, and fruit. They will hunt mice, birds, insects, worms, snakes, and even chickens.
Opossums are excellent tree climbers and spend much of their time aloft. They are aided in this by sharp claws, which dig into bark, and by a long prehensile (gripping) tail that can be used as an extra limb. Opossums nest in tree holes or in dens made by other animals.
Opossums rarely carry rabies because of their unusually low body temperatures. Opossums carry a variety of ectoparasites such as fleas, ticks, mites and lice that may also bite humans. Fleas are common on opossums, flea eggs and larva, are shed in areas frequented by opossums. They are known to carry diseases like leptospirosis, tularemia.
Leptospirosis: is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. In humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases. Some infected persons, however, may have no symptoms at all.
Without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.
Tularemia is a disease of animals and humans caused by the bacterium Francisellatularensis. Rabbits, hares, and rodents are especially susceptible and often die in large numbers during outbreaks. Humans can become infected through several routes, including:
- Tick and deer fly bites
- Skin contact with infected animals
- Ingestion of contaminated water
- Laboratory exposure
- Inhalation of contaminated dusts or aerosols
In addition, humans could be exposed as a result of bioterrorism.
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