ABC Blog

Do Possums Carry Disease or Parasites?

Do Possums Carry Disease

Taking the garbage out is something all of us do regularly. It’s fairly easy to tie up your trash bag, take a short walk to the curb and toss it in, right? Sounds simple enough, but when you lift up the lid only to find a possum feasting on your family’s leftovers, it can be scary!

Do Possums Carry Disease or Parasites?

Your first instinct is probably to run, and we don’t blame you. You’ve probably heard time and time again that possums have rabies. The thing is, that’s a myth. Your chances of encountering a rabid opossum are slim at best. Any mammal can contract rabies, but opossums have an advantage. Their body temperatures are low in comparison with other mammals, making their bodies less hospitable to the rabies virus. However, they can carry a variety of other types of disease that can be potentially harmful to your family. So the real question is, has your uninvited guest been bitten by more than just the ugly bug? Let’s learn more about possums and the risks they can pose to humans.

So the real question is, has your uninvited guest been bitten by more than just the ugly bug? Let’s learn more about possums and the risks they can pose to humans.

Some Facts about Possums

The opossum (Didelphis virginiana), more commonly known as “possum”, for short, is the only native North American marsupial and is a common suburban dweller. An opossum is characterized by its grayish fur, triangular head and long, pointed nose. Possums have prehensile tails, meaning they are made for grasping and wrapping around things like tree branches. These pests are nocturnal and omnivorous. Possums use their strong sense of smell to locate food, which makes your trash can an easy and appealing source of nutrition, especially since they will eat just about anything.

Do possums pose a threat to people?

Let’s start with that nasty hissing and copious saliva. This critter is unpleasant enough as it is, so when they glare at you, baring a mouthful of sharp teeth, it’s even worse. The first thing you should know is that this is a defense mechanism they use to protect themselves from potential predators. Other common behaviors are running, growling, urinating and even playing dead.

Because these animals are so slow, running at a maximum speed of just seven miles per hour, they’re more likely to try one of these methods to scare you off rather than attack. Since you never know how a particular animal may react when threatened, it’s best to exercise caution around possums.

Your resident opossum might be just a bump in the night, but it could also be a carrier of leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, salmonella and tuberculosis. Contact with a possum could expose you to diseases carries by anything living on the animal: fleas, ticks and lice. Your pets and family can also be at risk if they come into contact with a possum’s urine or feces. By allowing an opossum to stake a claim underneath your home or in your crawlspace, you could be exposing your living environment to contaminants that can harm you or your family.

What about my pets?

As we have already mentioned, possums can transmit diseases. Consider these rhyming words to the wise: If it has fleas, it can have a disease. As we already mentioned, opossums play host to several ectoparasites, including fleas, ticks and lice. The main concern for pets is flea-borne typhus. When looking for food, possums will wander into your garbage area or your garden if you have fruit-bearing plants.

If your pet is outside at night, it’s possible that your cat or dog may get into a fight with a possum on your property. This can put your pet in serious danger if it’s bitten by a possum’s pointy teeth and ultimately, put your family in danger by exposing you to any disease that was transmitted to your pet.

How to Get Rid of Possums

Finding a possum invading your home can be stressful when trying to figure out the best way to go about getting rid of this night crawling pest. Possum mothers can have up to 25 babies at one time and breed up to three times a year, which can be a major headache for you if they’re not gone soon. The good thing is there are some steps you can take to make these hissing creatures go away:

  • Trim any overgrown shrubs or tree limbs that extend over your roof so possums don’t have any way to hide or maneuver into your home.
  • Bring in your pet’s food bowls before nightfall, since possums have a good sense of smell and will eat your pet’s food if that’s its only option.
  • Make sure your garbage can has a tight-fitting lid and is properly sealed when left out for your neighborhood’s garbage pickup day.
  • Block any openings underneath your deck to prevent possums from taking permanent residence underneath your house.
  • Buy a trap that’s big enough to fit a cat and place along areas where you’ve noticed any signs of possums.
  • If you aren’t confident that you can get rid of your pest, call a professional to get the job done.

Let ABC Prevent Possums on Your Property

We know that an unexpected encounter with a hissing possum can be scary. Take control of animal intruders in with the help of a wildlife control specialist. Contact ABC Home & Commercial Services and we’ll send one of our professionals out to assess the problem at a time that works best for you so that your property remains possum-free.

Les Stobart

Les joined ABC in 2008 as the Director of Marketing, overseeing marketing, advertising, and communications for ABC’s branches. Les started the Lean Line, Online Chat departments, and manages corporate recruiting. He has a Bachelor of Science in Communications & Advertising from Lamart University. He has been part of the Texas Banking Association, a Financial Literacy Volunteer Teacher, ABC Kite Fest Board of Directors, a Town & Country Youth Soccer Coach, and a Neighborhood Sports flag football coach.

Learn More


  1. Action Pest Control Commented ()

    Opossums can be tricky critters, and it is right to stay away from regardless whether or not they contain rabies. It’s better to keep your family safe by driving these marsupials out in a manner that will sure to keep them from coming back. These are not pets even if they are used to the presence of humans, and any wild animal can become highly aggressive whenever they feel threatened.

    Best leave the solution to experts.

Comments are closed.