Zoonotic Disease

Zoonotic diseases are illnesses that are spread to humans from animals and insects, such as Rabies, West Nile Virus, Hantavirus, Q Fever, and Salmonellosis. Walla Walla County Department of Community Health (WWCDCH) staff work to prevent the occurrence and spread of zoonotic diseases by educating the public and providing consultation to people about potential disease-carrying animals and insects and conducting investigations and surveillance to identify the presence and source of zoonotic diseases.

A complete list of zoonotic diseases in Washington can be found on the Washington State Department of Health’s website.  

Bats, Animal Bites & Rabies

Photo courtesy of Washington State Public Health Lab

Rabies is a serious, almost always fatal virus that can spread to humans through bites (and other exposures) from infected animals. Fortunately, in Washington State, Rabies is very rare and is only known to be carried by bats.  The most recent case in Walla Walla County was in November of 2002, when a cat was infected by a bat. 

Bats – It is estimated that less than 1% of bats in the wild are infected with rabies. Humans and other mammals can be exposed to rabies through contact with rabid bats. You must seek immediate medical attention if you were bitten by or had any contact with a bat. If you are unsure about a bat exposure, call the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health immediately at (509) 524-2650.

If you find a bat in your living space, do not touch the bat! https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/5100/420-190-BatTransportInstructions.pdf

Living with Wildlife-Bats. 

Rabies testing is available through WWCDCH for bats that have come in contact with humans or for bats that are found inside a person’s living space. If your pet has been exposed to a bat, call your veterinarian so they can help arrange for the bat to be tested through the Washington State Public Health Lab.

Dogs, Cats and Ferrets that have bitten a human must be observed for 10 days to watch for signs of rabies. If a dog, cat or ferret becomes ill or dies within the 10-day observation, call WWCDCH immediately at (509)-524-2650 rabies testing may be required. Dog bites should also be reported to the local animal control authority. The Animal Exposure Report must be submitted to WWCDCH for follow up.


Mosquito Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Health

Disease can be spread to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. Over 40 different mosquito species can be found in Washington, and many are vectors for diseases, such as West Nile virus. Take these steps below to reduce your risk:

  • Avoid bites and illness (use insect repellents containing the following ingredients that are effective against mosquitos; DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon, Eucalyptus, permethrin)
  • Clean out the mosquitoes from the places where you work, live, and play

For more information in regard to mosquitoes, visit the Washington State Department of Health’s website.  


Hantavirus is a virus carried by some rodents. In Washington State, deer mice are the only animals known to carry it.  It is estimated that about 14% of the deer mouse population are infected. Deer mice are most common in rural settings. Hantavirus can cause a rare but deadly disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). You can get HPS by breathing in hantavirus. This can happen when rodent urine and droppings that contain hantavirus are stirred up in the air. You can also get infected by touching mouse urine, droppings, or nesting materials that contain the virus, and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. It is possible, yet even more rare, to get HPS from a mouse or rat bite. The disease does not spread person-to-person.

Rodent-borne disease Graphic

For more information:


Going hiking? Prepare for ticks as the warm weather hits! Here are some Hiking Tips from the CDC.

Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Health  

Removing a Tick

  • Promptly remove the tick using fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Avoid removing the tick with bare hands. Don’t twist or jerk the tick — this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouthparts with tweezers.
  • Tick Removal
    Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Health 
    After removing the tick, disinfect the bite site and wash your hands.
  • Note the date that you found the tick attached to you, just  in case you become ill. If a fever, rash, or flu-like illness occurs within a month, let your doctor know that you were bitten by a tick. This information may assist your doctor in diagnosing your illness.

For more information regarding ticks, visit the Washington State Department of Health’s website.

Bed bugs

Bed bugs are not known to transmit human diseases, but they can cause skin welts, local inflammation, and contribute to insomnia. Bed bugs have been found in homes, apartments, rental units, and even hotels throughout Washington with increasing frequency. The WSU Extension fact sheet on Bed Bugs provides more information on recognizing bed bugs, signs of bed bug infestation, and pest management approaches.

Information for tenants