Zoonotic DiseasesLast updated: August 02, 2016
A zoonotic disease is a disease that can be spread from animals to people. These diseases can be caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi. Some of these diseases are minor, while others can be fatal. If people understand how these diseases are commonly spread, they can take the preventive measures necessary to reduce the spread of disease.
Although zoonotic diseases can be spread in multiple ways, there are a few common methods of transmission, including through animal saliva, feces or bodily fluids; through contact with water, food, food bowls, or bedding of an infected animal; or through parasites, such as a flea or tick.
Fecal-oral transmission occurs when bacteria or viruses in the stool are ingested through the mouth. This often occurs when a person comes into contact with fecal material and then doesn't wash their hands thoroughly afterwards. Children may come into contact with fecal material by playing in soil or sand; adults may be cleaning up after a pet and forget to wash their hands afterwards. There are even some parasites (Giardia and Cryptosporidium) that can live in water, so people can be infected by ingesting water while swimming in a pool or body of water.
Another method of transmission is foodborne transmission. This can occur when people ingest food contaminated with a pathogen, or if someone handles raw meat or a contaminated object and doesn't wash their hands before handling food. Common pathogens that are transmitted through food include E. coli and Salmonella.
Insects can also be the cause of disease by carrying a pathogen from an infected animal and transferring it to a person. These parasites include mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks.
Some zoonotic diseases are transferred through direct contact. An example is Rabies, which usually spreads when an infected animal bites or scratches a person. One of the most common zoonotic diseases transmitted from cats to humans is Bartonellosis, also known as the "cat-scratch disease." This infection spreads when a cat scratches or bites a person. Another example is Ringworm, which is often transmitted when a person touches an infected animal.
Who Is At Risk?
People who have weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of acquiring a zoonotic disease. These people include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions, older people, and people receiving chemotherapy, with HIV or AIDS, or taking steroids. Children are often at a higher risk because they are more likely to play in contaminated fecal material, sand, or soil. They are also less likely to wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.
People with a weakened immune system or certain health conditions should take extra caution in protecting themselves against zoonotic diseases.
Common Zoonotic Diseases
Although there are numerous zoonotic diseases, the most common include rabies, ringworm, E. coli, Salmonellosis, Leptospirosis, Campylobacteriosis, Brucellosis, Giardia, Toxoplasmosis, roundworms, Cryptosporidiosis, and Plague.
PreventionKeeping your pets healthy is an important part of reducing risk. This includes making sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations, is receiving regular veterinarian exams, and is protected against parasites.
You should always practice good hygiene when you are interacting with animals and especially when handling any animal waste. It is important to clean up your pet's waste regularly (whether outside or in the litter box), but you should wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. You should also wash your hands before handling food, preparing food, or eating.
Take caution while handling raw meat, and do not eat or feed undercooked or raw meat.
Keep your pet and children away from wildlife. If your child comes into contact with animals or animal waste, you should wash their hands as soon as possible. Make sure they do not touch their face or put their hands in their mouth.
Zoonotic diseases can be serious, but they are also rare. By taking precautionary measures and practicing good hygiene, you can greatly reduce the risk of being infected.
If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.
-The Revival Education Team
The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of your personal veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.