We have many squirrels that live in our trees, harvest our filberts, and play on the children's play structure in our yard. Do I need to worry about pathogens left by the squirrels when my grandchildren come to play?
Marion County Oregon
Generally speaking there is little or no danger to humans from any disease carried by squirrels. However...
Squirrel droppings can be a source of Leptospirosis and Salmonella. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection which can manifest as a mild flu-like illness characterized by headache, aches and pains along with chills. This mild form of the disease is the most common. However, if the condition becomes more serious then life threatening symptoms may develop including organ failure and internal bleeding. Mild doses of leptospiros can be treated with antibiotics but more severe cases my require hospital admission. This infection is a typical incidence of what you can get with squirrel droppings.
Salmonella is a well known disease commonly defined as food poisoning; it will present with sickness and diarrhea and in mild doses may be no more than an inconvenience however, as with leptospirosis, life threatening complications can occur especially in the elderly or very young. It is possible that contracting salmonella may also require hospitalization.
The best possible way to avoid any risk of infection from any animal dung is to ensure that the highest level of hygiene is maintained at all times. It is easy to avoid the risk of infection by a strict regimen of hand washing. You could also thoroughly hose off or wash any play structures in the yard before the grandchildren come over to play. A quick spritz with a weak bleach solution would also be a good idea.
I hope this information is useful to you. Please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions.