Animal-Transmitted Diseases in Southeast Utah

Hantavirus, plague, tularemia, and West Nile virus are wildlife-related diseases that have been confirmed in the state of Utah, though not necessarily in Utah parks. Casual visitors are unlikely to be exposed, but awareness is your best defense.


Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a potentially deadly disease spread by infected wild rodents, especially mice. People become infected when the virus becomes airborne - when dust is stirred up or nests are disturbed, especially in confined spaces.


Tularemia is a disease frequently affecting rabbits, hares, and rodents. Humans can become infected through insect bites, handling infected animals, ingestion of contaminated water, or inhalation of contaminated dusts or aerosols.


Often present in rodent populations, plague is usually spread by bites from infected fleas.

West Nile Virus

West Nile virus is most commonly transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.

Avoid contact with wild animals and their homes, and protect yourself from insect bites. If you encounter symptoms of these diseases, contact your doctor immediately.

Protect Yourself

Here are some tips to reduce your risk of animal-transmitted disease:

  • Avoid contact with mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks.

  • Be sure to use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants. Consider staying indoors during periods of high mosquito activity (dusk to dawn). Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection. After going indoors, find and remove ticks from your body.

  • Do not handle wild animals, living or dead. Report any dead animals you find in the park.

  • Avoid sleeping in rodent-infested areas or near animal burrows.

  • Keep food and trash stored properly.

  • Keep your campsite or picnic area clean so rodents are not attracted to your area. Keeping your distance and your food from wildlife not only protects them, it also protects you from injury and exposure to diseases.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before eating, drinking, or using your phone.

  • Cook food thoroughly.

  • Filter/purify your water. Ask a ranger about proper water purification methods.

  • Protect your pet from fleas.

  • If you are in an area that shows signs of rodents (such as burrows and droppings), avoid contact with all surfaces and wash your hand thoroughly.

  • Do not attempt to feed wild animals.

Chances are good that you will never experience any of the above diseases or situations. There is no reason to fear the outdoors or the animals that live there. Awareness and simple precautions can protect you and others from a variety of unpleasant events.

Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Hovenweep National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument

Last updated: February 23, 2020