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Zoonotic Diseases: Types, Risk Factors, Transmission And Prevention

| Reviewed By Sandeep Radhakrishnan

If you have been reading news reports on coronavirus disease (COVID-19), you may have come across the term zoonotic diseases. So, what exactly are zoonotic diseases? We'll explain it here.

What Are Zoonotic Diseases?

Zoonotic diseases, also called zoonoses are diseases that spread from animals to humans. Animals can sometimes carry harmful germs like bacteria, virus, parasites and fungi that can be passed on to humans and cause zoonotic diseases, which can lead to mild to serious illness and even death.

Zoonotic diseases are common around the world. More than six out of every ten known contagious diseases can spread from animals, and three out of every four new contagious diseases in people can be transmitted from animals [1].

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 61 per cent of all human diseases are zoonotic, and 75 per cent of newly discovered diseases in the last decade are zoonotic [9].


Types Of Zoonotic Diseases

• Rabies [2]
• Salmonella and E. coli infections
• Swine flu [3]
• Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) [4]
• Malaria
• Ringworm
• Bird flu
• Ebola [5]
• Leprosy
• Zika fever
• Cat scratch fever
• Anthrax
• Bovine tuberculosis
• Campylobacter infection
• Brucellosis
• Dengue
• Encephalitis from ticks
• Enzootic abortion
• Cryptosporidiosis
• Cysticercosis
• Fish tank granuloma
• Erysipeloid
• Pasteurellosis
• Hepatitis E
• Glanders
• Giardiasis
• Hemorrhagic colitis
• Hydatid disease
• Lyme disease [6]
• Leptospirosis
• Listeria infection
• Louping ill
• Lmphocytic choriomeningitis
• Parrot fever
• Orf infection
• Plague
• Q fever
• Rat-bite fever
• Rocky mountain spotted fever
• Streptococcal sepsis
• Toxocariasis
• West Nile virus
• Trichinellosis
• Toxoplasmosis
• Tularemia
• Zoonotic diphtheria


How Are Zoonotic Diseases Transmitted?

Direct contact: Coming in direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected animal such as urine, mucous, saliva, blood and faeces. This happens when you touch or pet infected animals or if you are bitten or scratched by an animal.

Indirect contact: It involves coming in contact with areas where animals live and roam or surfaces that are contaminated with germs. These include pet habitats, chicken coops, aquarium tank water, plants and soil, barns, pet food and water dishes.

Vector-borne:Vectors like mosquitoes, ticks and flea can carry infective pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and protozoan from one host (carrier) to another.

Food-borne:Eating contaminated food such as undercooked meats or eggs or eating unwashed produce that is contaminated with animal faeces. Drinking raw or unpasteurised milk can also cause zoonotic diseases to spread and infect humans.

Water-borne: Drinking contaminated water that contains faeces of an infected animal [7].


Who Are At Higher Risk Of Contracting Zoonotic Diseases?

• Children younger than five
• Older adults who are above 65
• People with weakened immunity
• Pregnant women


Why Are Zoonotic Diseases A Growing Concern?

Zoonotic diseases are a global concern for many reasons:

• Human encroachment on wildlife.
• The novel and unpredictable nature of the diseases.
• Hunting of animals.


Ways To Protect Yourself From Zoonotic Diseases

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are some ways to protect yourself and your family from the diseases [8]

• Wash your hands with soap and water right away after you touch an animal or if you are around animals.

• Prevent mosquito, ticks and flea bites.

• Practice food safety, know how to handle raw meat and seafood.

• Avoid bites and scratches from animals.

• Be aware of zoonotic diseases.

• Choose the right pets for your home.

• Don't kiss, snuggle or hold reptiles, rodents, amphibians and poultry close to your face.

• To prevent bites and scratches avoid playing roughly with animals.

• Clean the cat litter daily.

• Clean bites and scratches immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention.

• Vaccinate your pets.

• Stay away from sick animals


Common FAQs

1. What animals carry zoonotic diseases?

A. Most of the zoonotic diseases come from livestock including chickens, pigs, cattle, goats, sheep and camel.

2. What is the most common zoonotic disease?

A. Rabies, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, dengue, malaria, salmonella and E. coli are some of the most common zoonotic diseases.

3. Is Ebola a zoonotic disease?

A. Ebola virus disease is considered a zoonotic disease that most commonly affects humans and animals such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees.

4. What are the symptoms of zoonotic diseases?

A. - GI symptoms: Diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite.

- Flu like symptoms: Fever, body aches, headache, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes.

- Skin lesions, scratches or bite marks.

Sandeep RadhakrishnanHospice Care
Sandeep Radhakrishnan
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