What Is Zoonosis?
No – zoonosis is not planning a trip to the zoo. It is a disease that can be spread from animals to humans. It’s transferred when an animal, infected with parasites, viruses, fungi or bacteria comes into contact with humans. When people hear about zoonotic diseases, many think of rabies. The rabies surveillance report by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, shows the state of TX reported 937 cases in 2013 – the most reported cases that year within the United States. Although it’s rare for humans to die from rabies in the U.S., worldwide approximately 59,000 die from the disease each year according to another recent report. But rabies is just one type – there are over two hundred diseases that are classified as ‘zoonoses’.
6 Common Types of Zoonoses
• Tick-born illnesses such as Lyme disease
• Bovine turberculosis from cattle and other farm animals
• West Nile virus
• Yellow fever
Watch Out For Mosquitos
Malaria, West Nile virus and Yellow Fever can be transmitted through mosquitos. Zoonotic diseases can be found worldwide, however they can also be characteristic of a specific area of the world. Traveling worldwide, destruction of animal habitats and globalization of markets can contribute to the increase in zoonotic diseases.
Other than mosquito bites, people can also become infected with zoonotic diseases by eating or handling undercooked or raw meat, or coming into contact with feces, urine or blood of an infected animal. People over the age of 65, pregnant women, children under the age of five and those with a compromised immune system are more at risk for zoonotic diseases.
You may be wondering how in the world you could be exposed to animals that could carry a disease. People are exposed to animals on trips to the beach, park, zoo, state fairs, and in their very own backyard garden. Those who work on a ranch or farm, veterinarians, wildlife biologists are susceptible due to their frequent exposure to animals.
How You Can Protect Yourself
• Use a bug repellent when spending tine outside
• Check for ticks after spending time outdoors
• Wash all vegetables thoroughly
• Wash your hands during and after preparing meals, visiting a zoo or farm, state fair or any facility where you may have touched animals
Zoonotic diseases are a public health risk worldwide. Add to the fact that food markets continue to become global, however zoonotic diseases can limit international trade agreements, agriculture and food production. Resistance to antibiotics to treat bacterial diseases is becoming a threat across the world.
The good news is that the World Health Organization has instigated many initiatives to help reduce the transmission of zoonoses including:
• Development of preparedness and response plans
• Public and professional education
• Requirement of veterinarians to report any incidence of zoonotic diseases
Efforts are being implemented to limit and confine outbreaks, however the awareness, education and implementation of these plans need to continue. Protect yourself and your family from zoonotic diseases by taking the right precautions. Wash your hands, handle food safely, prevent bites from ticks and mosquitos and know the simple things you can do to stay safe around your pets. If you have questions or specific concerns, ask your veterinarian.