Zoonotics and Vectors

A zoonotic disease or zoonosis (plural is zoonoses) is any disease of animals that can be transmitted to humans, such as rabies or West Nile Virus. The term "vector" is used to identify the animal that harbors or transmits the disease to humans. Issues concerning zoonotic disease can be complex and may involve many agencies.

Environmental Health Staff is involved in three primary activities related to zoonotic disease: education, coordination, and surveillance. Educating the general public concerning the risk of zoonotic disease ensures that the public takes appropriate precautions when recreating with or handling animals. 

When vectors are present in our community and zoonotic disease is reported, Environmental Health staff help to coordinate efforts to reduce the risks to the public. Surveillance involves both passive and active monitoring of reported vector-borne disease and the presence of animal species known to contribute to vector-borne disease.

Living with Wildlife    

Island County has an abundance of wildlife.  Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, and many more.  Although unlikely, some of these animals may carry rabies.  To reduce the risk of rabies exposure for your family and yourself, follow these easy tips below.

Do not handle wild animals, especially bats.

Teach your children never to touch or handle bats, even dead ones.  Have your children tell an adult if they find a bat at home, at school, or with a pet.

  • If you see a wild animal, leave it alone.  
  • Do not keep wild animals as pets.
  • Keep bats out of your living space by "bat proofing" your home.

Pets may get rabies if bitten by a rabid animal.  Protect them and yourself by getting them vaccinated routinely.  Dogs, cats, and ferrets are required to be vaccinated in Washington State.