July 6th – World Zoonoses Day!

06 Jul July 6th – World Zoonoses Day!

July 6th, 2018 happens to be National Air Traffic Control Day, International Kissing Day, National Fried Chicken Day, among other things, but notably it is also World Zoonoses Day. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness about diseases that have the potential to spread from animals to people. Read on to learn more about zoonotic diseases!

What are zoonotic diseases and why are they important?

Zoonotic diseases are disease that can be spread from animals to humans. These diseases can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other organisms. It is estimated that nearly 60% of infectious, or easily spread, diseases in humans originally came from animals. In addition, nearly 75% of newly discovered human diseases originate from animals. Anyone has the potential to become infected with a zoonotic disease, but infants and young children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are more at risk. While some zoonotic diseases produce no symptoms or only mild symptoms, others can be more serious, and even fatal.

How do zoonotic diseases spread between animals and people?

Depending on the zoonotic disease and what causes it, these diseases may spread in many ways. There are two main ways diseases are spread: directly and indirectly.

  • Direct contact
    • Touching or petting an animal
    • Being bitten or scratched by an animal
    • Coming into contact with an infected animal’s urine, feces, blood, saliva, etc.
  • Indirect Contact
    • Coming into contact with an object that the animal has rubbed, touched, coughed, or sneezed on
    • Being near where infected animals are located
    • Being bitten by a mosquito, tick, etc.
    • Consuming contaminated or unsafe food or beverages

What are some notable zoonotic diseases?

Some zoonotic diseases that you may have heard of are:

  • Rabies – a severe, fatal disease caused by a virus that mainly affects the nervous system and is spread by contact with saliva or the bite of infected skunks, bats, racoons, foxes, or other infected mammals
  • Salmonella – bacteria that can contaminate food and when ingested may result in stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.
  • Leptospirosis – bacterial disease spread by contaminated urine or water from infected animals that can cause mild symptoms, or may lead to severe liver and kidney damage and other serious issues
  • Lyme Disease – bacterial disease transmitted by tick bites, often causes a bulls-eye type rash at the site of the bite, and may cause mild flu like symptoms or more severe symptoms; can be fatal if left untreated

There are many more zoonotic diseases than what is listed above. Do not worry, spreading of these diseases from animals to humans does not occur all the time. However, it is important to know what diseases are out there and the risks that come with them.

How to minimize your risk of zoonotic disease?

Many organizations are studying and tracking the incidence of zoonotic diseases to keep people safe. While the risk is low due to modern healthcare, here are a just a few tips to help decrease your risk of contracting a zoonotic disease:

  • Keep your pets up to date on their vaccinations and utilize parasite control according to your veterinarian’s recommendation
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling animals or being near animals (even if they appear healthy), feeding animals, or cleaning up any bodily fluids such as feces, urine, or blood
  • Do not approach or touch animals that are sick or appear ill
  • Avoid contact with wild animals
  • Try to avoid bites from mosquitos, ticks, and fleas
  • Practice proper food preparation techniques when handling and cooking raw meat
  • Do not drink unpasteurized milk