Zoonotic Diseases (Zoonosis): Disease Passed from Animals to Humans
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Zoonotic Diseases (Zoonosis): Disease Passed from Animals to Humans

Zoonotic Diseases Meaning

Zoonotic diseases are referred to diseases or infections that are transmitted from an animal or insect to humans. They are also called zoonosis. Zoonotic diseases range from short term illness to long term illness. Some of the diseases are too fatal and may lead to death. Animals carry harmful pathogens like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. These pathogens, when they come in contact with humans, cause zoonotic diseases.

Historically, zoonotic diseases had a massive impact on the human population. Zoonoses are one of the most frequent and dreaded risks to which mankind is exposed.

Causes of Zoonotic Diseases

Diseases and infections from animals can make people ill in various ways. Gastrointestinal illness, respiratory diseases or nervous system diseases are some of the common types.

Infectious diseases from animals are transmitted in various ways:

  • Direct Contact: Coming into direct contact with blood, urine, saliva, mucous, and other body fluids of an infected animal can transmit the pathogens to humans and make them ill. This also includes petting or touching animals, scratches, and bites.

  • Indirect Contact: Coming in contact with areas where animals live, or the objects that have been contaminated by pathogens are indirect modes of transmission of zoonotic diseases. Examples include aquarium, pet habitats, dishes of pets, plants, soils, etc.

  • Vector-Borne: Vectors are the living organisms that are responsible for transmitting infections between animals and humans. Many of these vectors include blood-sucking insects such as being bitten by mosquito, tick or flea.

  • Foodborne – Consuming contaminated or unsafe food and drinks such as unpasteurized milk, undercooked meat or eggs, raw vegetables, and fruits can be one of the transmitting modes of zoonotic diseases.

Types of Zoonosis

1) Rabies

Rabies is a zoonotic disease that usually affects the nervous system of mammals. It is caused by a virus and gets transmitted if an infected animal bites humans or other animals. Rabies is a fatal disease and cannot be treated once the symptoms occur. Vaccinations for rabies are available for effective prevention.

2) E.coli Infections

These infections are generally caused by direct contact with infected animals and handling contaminated food products. Food poisoning, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea are associated with E. Coli infections.

3) Salmonella Infections

Salmonella infections are often caused by handling reptiles, amphibians, chicks, and ducks that carry Salmonella. The sickness can last for up to 3-7 days. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps. Salmonella infections are also known as intestinal infections.

4) Dengue, Malaria, and Chikungunya

These are mosquito borne diseases. Symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, and weakness. It is very much necessary to treat these diseases as soon as possible as they can be fatal.

5) Lyme Disease

Tick bites cause Lyme disease. The disease can range from mild to severe with symptoms like fever and headache.

Other examples of zoonotic diseases are Psittacosis (parrot fever), bird flu, bovine tuberculosis, swine influenza, Ebola, leprosy, Zika fever, brucellosis, coronavirus, etc.

Who Are at Higher Risk?

Anyone can be affected by a zoonotic disease, no matter how healthy they are. Some people are at a higher risk of developing zoonotic diseases than others. These individuals are more prone to sickness.These categories include:

  • Children younger than 5 years of age
  • Adults older than 60 years
  • Pregnant women
  • People with a weak immune system (alcoholism, cancer treatment, organ transplant, AIDS patients, etc).

Zoonotic Diseases Diagnosis

There are several ways to discover if an individual has zoonosis:

  • Clinical Specimen: Looking at a clinical specimen, such as a stool or blood sample under a microscope to see if the pathogen (disease-causing pathogen or microorganism) is present.

  • Culture of Specimen: Culture test of a clinical specimen to see if the pathogen will grow.

  • Antigen Tests: Antigen tests are done to see if there are antibodies of the pathogen in the person’s blood.

  • Molecular Biology Testing: It is the testing of the individual’s blood to analyse if the DNA or RNA of the pathogen is present.

Prevention Against Zoonotic Diseases

People can come in contact with animals in many places such as home, market, zoo, parks, etc. Fortunately, some preventive measures are helpful in protecting ourselves against these zoonoses. Some of these include:

  • Keeping Hands Clean – Wash your hands with soap or handwash after touching animals. This will prevent germs from spreading.

  • Choose Pets Wisely – Pets provide many benefits to us. They offer companionship and entertainment. It is crucial to choose pets carefully after going through various researches. Providing vaccination against pets is also important for safety purposes.

  • Handling Food Safely – An individual can avoid infections by taking care of few unnoticed things like ensuring proper cooking of food and maintaining hygiene.

  • Preventing Insect Bites – Using insect sprays, covering yourselves with clothes, and staying away from wooded areas can help prevent bites.

  • Researching Diseases and Infections Before Planning a Trip – Being aware of the different types of zoonotic diseases while traveling and taking preventive steps such as vaccination is vital.

  • Vaccination for People –Vaccines are available for some zoonoses for effective preventions. People are advised to get vaccinated against possible zoonoses.

  • Care While Pregnancy – Pregnant women are at higher risk of zoonotic diseases. They should take care of themselves while handling pets and watch out for contaminated food items.

  • Extra Care for Immuno-Suppressed Individuals – Individuals with depressed/weakened immunity, whether due to sickness or medical treatments, should avoid every possible exposure to zoonotic diseases.

  • Pest Control – Pest control at a regular interval in homes and office places.

Diagnostics and Pathology Tests Available At House of Diagnostics (HOD).


Data Sources:

  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320618.php
  • http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/disease-types/zoonotic-diseases
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/zoonosis#types


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Zoonotic Diseases (Zoonosis): Disease Passed from Animals to Humans
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Zoonotic Diseases (Zoonosis): Disease Passed from Animals to Humans
Diseases that are passed from animals to humans called zoonotic diseases or zoonosis. Read causes, types, diagnosis and prevention. Examples of zoonotic diseases, animal flu, anthrax, bird flu, bovine tuberculosis, brucellosis, Campylobacter infection, cat scratch fever, cryptosporidiosis etc.
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