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Thurston County, Washington

Public Health and Social Services

Zoonotic Diseases

A zoonotic disease or zoonosis (plural is zoonoses) is any disease of animals that can be transmitted to people. This program includes control and prevention of such diseases. Bats, rodents, certain insects, and birds are animals of primary concern. 

Bat flying through air

Animal bites can be extremely painful and often raise concerns about rabies. In Washington, bats are the most common mammal affected by rabies. Rabies is extremely rare in other animals in Washington, including pet dogs and cats. Bites and scratches from pet dogs or cats should be cleaned with soap and water. If the bite becomes infected, seek medical attention immediately. Contact Thurston County Public Health & Social Services or your health care provider to determine if you had a potential rabies exposure and if the animal should be tested. Click here to see rabies activity in Washington.

What should I do if I find a bat in my living space?

Never handle a bat with bare hands. Only capture bats that have had direct contact with a person or pet, or bats found in a sleeping area. Click here to view instructions for safely capturing bats for rabies testing (PDF), or watch Public Health-Seattle & King County's video on how to safely capture a bat in your home.

During business hours, call Thurston County Public Health & Social Services. Outside of business hours or on the weekend, call Poison Control at 1-800-986-9050.

How common is human rabies?

Rabies in humans is extremely rare in the US, but causes thousands of deaths throughout other parts of the world where rabies vaccine is less readily available. Since 1990, the number of reported cases in the US has ranged from one to seven cases annually. Since 1980, almost all cases of human rabies acquired in the US have been from bat rabies. In Washington, there have been two cases of human rabies identified during the last 25 years. In 1995, a four-year-old child died from rabies four weeks after a bat was found in her bedroom; and in 1997, a 64-year-old man was diagnosed with rabies. These two Washington residents were infected with bat rabies.

  • Keep bats out of your living space by bat-proofing your home. Living with Wildlife-Bats, Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

For more information on rabies visit: Rabies (WA DOH)

Rodents can spread disease, destroy things in our homes and start fires by chewing electrical wires. Find out how to avoid problems by keeping rodents out of your home and work environment. For more information, see Rodent Prevention.​

Hantaviruses are a group of viruses carried by rodents. One of these, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS), can be extremely serious and sometimes fatal. Humans can contract the disease when they come into contact with infected rodents or their urine and droppings. Rodent control in and around the home remains the primary strategy for preventing hantavirus infection. Find out how to properly clean up rodent-infested areas in your home here.

For more information on hantavirus visit: Hantavirus (WA DOH)

Thurston County Public Health no longer tracks or tests birds for West Nile Virus (WNV).

WNV is a serious illness that affects people, horses, certain types of birds, and other animals. WNV is transmitted by mosquito bites, however, less than 1% of mosquitoes are infected with the virus. Of those who are infected, less than 1% develop a severe illness.

WNV is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds that have high levels of WNV in their blood. WNV first appeared in the US in New York in 1999 and has since spread rapidly throughout the country. In Washington State, WNV first appeared in 2002 in infected birds and horses. There have been around a dozen human cases in Washington each year since 2009, mostly in Eastern Washington.

West Nile Virus Activity in Washington 

For more information on WNV visit: West Nile Virus (WA DOH)

Contact the Food and Environmental Services Section at 360-867-2667 or send an email to with additional questions.