What are zoonotic diseases?

Dr. Larry Mangum

Veterinarian Appalachian Animal Hospital

Throughout history there has been a relationship between man and animals. So much so, it also means a relationship can sour and history has shown that relationship has soured many times in the form of zoonotic diseases.

What are zoonotic diseases? They are diseases that pass from animals to humans. Think in terms of the bubonic plague that wiped out hundreds of thousands of lives during the Middle Ages or even those diseases that still continue to haunt us like rabies caused by animal bites, the mosquito born disease malaria or Rocky Mountain spotted fever obtained from ticks.

The list goes on and on: Anthrax, leprosy, influenza, Ebola, West Nile virus, tuberculosis... As long as humans and animals have coexisted, there is also a certain amount of risk involved.

These diseases can even be caught from sources you may think of as safe: Your household pet.

The causes of zoonotic diseases are diverse and can be from direct or indirect contact. A person can become contaminated from an infected animal by touching its blood, mucus, urine or feces. These diseases can also be passed along simply by touching an infected animal, or, as the example of rabies tells us, bitten or scratched by an infected animal.

Indirect infection can come in the most common areas, such as aquarium tanks, cages, kennels and food and water bowls for pets. A common way for zoonotic diseases spreading can come from infected animals in streams or rivers that deliver the contaminants downstream. Another common way for zoonotic diseases to enter the human system is through undercooked meat and raw fruit and vegetables, so it is always important to cook to proper temperatures and wash vegetables and fruits before eating.

How can you prevent zoonotic diseases from spreading? Simple steps such as washing hands with soap and water, using bug sprays, choosing pets wisely, keeping areas where animals are held clean and making sure your shots and vaccinations are up-to-date are all keys to maintaining a healthy working relationship between animal and man.

If you pet has not been updated on prevention to avoid this disease, give us a call at Appalachian Animal Hospital at (423) 587-4393.