Parasites and Diseases
Like humans, fish and wildlife species can develop diseases during their lifetime. These animals can also host parasites that may or may not impact their health. Some diseases and parasites, called "zoonoses" can be transmitted to humans though contact with the affected animal's tissues or fluids, or by people eating infected parts of the animal. Descriptions and risks of some common wildlife diseases and parasites potentially infecting game meat are found on this link (PDF 146 kB). Humans can also fall ill due to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PDF), though this is not an infectious disease or parasite, it is a disease caused by a toxin.
This section will help you understand what animals can carry which parasites and diseases commonly or you might be concerned about, how to know what to look for, how to avoid spreading animal diseases or parasites to your family or pets or other wildlife, and what you can do to safely prepare wild foods for consumption.
The easiest way to look up information is by host species or by disease. You may also be interested in learning about some of the diseases of concern to Alaskans and Alaska's wildlife resources These are diseases that are making the news – either because they have already been detected in Alaska or because scientists are doing surveillance for them here.
If you find disease or a parasite specimen that you feel should be submitted for examination, please follow the instructions on the form found here: Submitting Samples for Disease/Parasite Investigation (PDF 513 kB).
Wildlife Disease and Parasites in the News
- Sick hares harbinger the annual Tularemia outbreak in Interior Alaska
- Fact Sheet on Tularemia (PDF 42 kB)
- Watching for Ticks (Alaska Fish & Wildlife News)
During June to September 2017, USFWS received reports of dead and dying seabirds from the Bering and Chukchi regions — from Point Hope south to the Bristol Bay. Responders at Deering, Gambell, Nome, Point Hope, Shishmaref, Unalaska, Unalakleet, St. George, St. Paul and other coastal areas have counted nearly 1600 beached seabird carcasses since early June 2017, including northern fulmars, shearwaters, and kittiwakes. Murres, auklets, gulls, and puffins have also been reported. The USFWS coordinated with the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST) to monitor several beaches.
Seabird carcasses from Point Hope, Shishmaref, Gambell, St. George and St. Paul Islands indicated death by drowning and starvation. There was no evidence that the deaths were caused by an infection.
Report unusual numbers of sick or dead birds to: 1-866-527-3358 or email AK_MBM@fws.gov.
Diseases of Concern
- Avian Influenza (birds)
- Chronic Wasting Disease (deer, elk, moose)
- Chytrid Fungus (amphibians)
- West Nile Virus (birds)
- Whirling Disease (fish)
- White-nose Syndrome (bats)