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Animal Diseases

Both domestic and wild animals carry many diseases, parasites, and viruses; however, the majority of those diseases cause little harm to humans. Three of the most common and serious illnesses that are transmittable to humans are listed below.

Rabies occurs when a virus attacks the brain in warm-blooded animals. Once an animal or human contracts the virus and symptoms appear, the victim always dies. Reptiles and birds cannot contract or transmit the rabies virus.

Animals with rabies can survive for months before becoming sick and dying. During that time, the infected animal can pass the virus onto other animals and humans. You do not have to be bitten to contract rabies. The virus can be spread through any open wound or through direct contact with the eyes. By far, the rabies virus is one of the biggest concerns in our area. Raccoons, fox, and bats are the usual carriers, however, all warm-blooded animals can contract and transmit the disease. Yearly, hundreds of residents in our area receive rabies vaccinations after being exposed to the virus by a wild animal or their own pets.

Occasionally domestic dogs contract rabies, however, one of the biggest risks to residents are free roaming cats. Residents who do not immunize their dogs, cats, and ferrets and who allow their cats to roam freely are placing themselves and their families at risk for rabies infection. Residents in our area should educate themselves about the rabies virus and learn how to protect their families and their pets.

 are held regularly at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington at a cost of $10 per domestic animal. Vaccines are not administered to pets that are considered wild animals. There is no proven rabies inoculation for the prevention of rabies in wild animals. Falls Church City residents are welcome at the clinic. Contact the Animal Welfare League of Arlington at 703-931-9241 to confirm the clinic is being held.

Salmonella is a natural bacterium found in the gut of reptiles and snakes. Unfortunately, when the animal sheds the virus in their feces, their owners can contract it simply by handling the animal. It is illegal to own reptiles in Falls Church City. Owners of reptiles, lizards (especially iguanas), and snakes should familiarize themselves with this condition.

Also known as "Parrot Fever," psittacosis is spread by a bacterial infection in birds and can be spread to humans. Psittacosis is acquired by inhaling dried secretions from infected birds. The incubation period is 6 to 19 days. Although all birds are susceptible, pet birds (parrots, parakeets, macaws, and cockatiels) and poultry (turkeys and ducks) are most frequently involved in transmission to humans.

Once infected, symptoms found in humans include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a dry cough. Humans can also contract severe pneumonia and other health problems. Psittacosis has been found in pet parrots in Falls Church City in the past.

  • Innoculate your pet dogs, cats, and ferrets for rabies. Do not let your pets roam free as they are more likely to encounter a sick animal without your knowledge. Be especially careful when letting your pets out at night. 
  • Do not feed wildlife. Observe wild animals from afar and never approach or try to pet a wild animal. Do not keep wild animals as pets. It is illegal and dangerous to expose your family to these animals. Educate your children about the dangers of approaching or petting wild animals.
  • If you should see a wild animal that appears to be overly friendly, staggering, with a wobbly gait, or just appears to be sick, get away from the animal and contact the Animal Control Officer or the Police Department immediately.
  • If you are bitten or scratched by any wild animal, contact the Animal Control Officer or Police Department immediately. Wash the wound immediately with soap and water. If possible, try and see where the suspect animal goes after the altercation. Rabies is fatal and can incubate in humans for months. If bitten or scratched, SEEK MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY!
  • If your pet is in an altercation with a suspected rabid animal or any animal, minimize your contact with your pet until a veterinarian can examine the animal.

For more information, contact the Animal Control Officer, the Fairfax County Health Department, or the Centers for Disease Control.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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300 Park Avenue
Level G3, East Wing
Falls Church, VA 22046

703-248-5172 (TTY 711)
703-248-5158 fax