University of Illinois Extension

Public Health and Safety Issues

Diseases Not Known to be Transmittable to Humans


Botulism is a form of food poisoning, not an infectious disease. Birds and mammals become infected when they consume the toxin of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. This bacterium is common in soils and produces a toxin that causes muscle paralysis. Type C botulism sometimes causes major die-offs of dabbling ducks and bottom-feeding waterfowl. Type E botulism affects fish eating birds such as gulls and mergansers. Type C is not a human health concern. Properly cook fish to avoid Type E botulism.

For more information about botulism:

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper is not a zoonotic disease. However, it is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus and can affect unvaccinated pets exposed to wildlife. It can affect animals in the Canidae (coyote, fox), Felidae (bobcat), Mustelidae (weasel), and Procyonidae (raccoon) families. Symptoms may include weight loss, nasal (nose) and ocular (eye) discharge, trouble with motor coordination (walking in circles, falling over, difficulty getting up, falling out of trees), seizures, diarrhea, fever, blindness, and coma. Canine distemper can cause population reduction in affected species due to high levels of mortality during outbreaks of the disease. The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with infected animals or their body fluids or feces. The risk of Canine distemper to humans is low, with transmission more likely to occur from domestic dogs than from wild carnivores, but people should avoid contact with infected wild animals.

For more information about canine distemper, visit the Merck Veterinary Manual.

Deer Diseases

Two diseases that affect white-tailed deer have gained attention in Illinois in recent years. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) are not known to affect humans, but these diseases do have important implications for deer management in Illinois. Hunters and others familiar with the signs of these diseases can help biologists track the spread of disease by reporting deer suspected of being infected.

Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease was first found in Illinois in 2002 in Winnebago County. Since then it has been located in deer in Boone, DeKalb, McHenry, La Salle, Ogle, and Winnebago counties. CWD is a fatal neurological disease in deer and poses a serious threat to deer populations in areas where it occurs. Signs of infected deer include inability to stand, dehydration, dull coat, drooping of the head and ears, emaciation, and excessive salivation and urination. Research has found no evidence that humans can contract CWD from contact with deer or from eating venison (muscle). It is recommended that the brain, spinal cord, lymph nodes, and spleen not be eaten. Contact with spinal fluid should be avoided. Minimize any cuts made through the bones or spinal column. It is best to bone the deer out without quartering the carcass.

For more information about CWD please visit:

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) likely occurs every year in Illinois. It is of concern especially in the central and southern counties of Illinois. The last major outbreaks of EHD occurred in 1998 and 2007. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease is caused by a virus that is spread by biting midges or gnats. The disease is often fatal to deer, causing fever and severe internal bleeding. Infected deer are often found dead in or near water. The impact on deer populations is not predictable. Outbreaks depend upon weather conditions, which influence the size of the midge population and subsequent disease transmission. The disease is not known to be a human health concern.

For more information about EHD please visit: