in this article:
What are zoonoses?
How we define zoonoses? Zoonotic diseases, or zoonoses, are diseases that can be passed from people to animals and vice versa, from animal to people. It is those diseases that can carry up from animals to people that interest us here. Some of the common zoonoses would not harm an animal at all but can cause severe health complications in humans.
There is a great variety of zoonotic diseases ranging from local, quickly passing zoonoses symptoms to middle-range with complications that can be cured by meds and to life-threatening ones that can cause death or irreversible complications in the variety of the systems inside the human organism.
How zoonoses are classified?
There are four major groups of zoonoses sorted by the type of the agent a disease is carried by. These are:
How zoonoses spread and transmit?
Each zoonotic disease has its own ways to get into the human system. Some zoonoses can transmit in more ways than one. One should always refer to the specific disease’s habitual way of spreading. The major ways of transmitting a zoonotic disease from a host to a human are:
The common cases of contamination by zoonoses include following typical human activities:
- Hiking in wilderness,
- Walking barefoot,
- Petting animals, especially wild animals and stray dogs, cats, puppies, or kitties,
- Farming activities connected with livestock. Livestock is a favorite host of many zoonotic infections and should be approached with precautions and proper prevention procedures,
- Walking/ hunting/ picking mushrooms, etc. in the great outdoors where there areas with population of ticks or mosquitos,
- Walking your dog, cat or any other pet, where she can pick up a flea or a tick and later would shed it in where you live.
You suspect you have a zoonotic disease. What to do?
High risk groups for zoonoses
While anybody can be infected by zoonoses, some population groups are especially running high risk of being infected by zoonotic infections and/or have harsher symptoms of the disease caught. Zoonoses and public health is a major subject of studies. Zoonoses definition and treatments are constantly updated.
High risk groups include:
- Individuals aged 60 and more;
- Little children;
- HIV-positive individuals;
- Chemotherapy-treated patients;
- Pregnant women ;
- In general, any weakening or complication in the immune system makes an individual more susceptible to being infected with zoonosis, as one’s immune system is responsible for shielding us humans from the foreign infections.
Zoonoses: Prevention measures
There are time-proven recommendations on how to reduce a risk of catching a zoonotic disease.
- Washing hands frequently and thoroughly;
- Using repellents to keep ticks, mosquitos, and other insect carriers away;
- Handling foods safely (cooking meat thoroughly, keeping produce foods in separate containers, etc.);
- Minimize possibility of being bitten or scratched by any animal;
- If you have pets, get them vaccinate;
- Consult a veterinarian as far as prevention measures go, especially if you walk with your pet in ticks or fleas-populated areas;
- Always check for ticks when and after you have been in great outdoors/ wilderness;
- Never eat, drink, touch your eyes or mouth after you have played with an animal. Makes sure to wash your hands thoroughly after each time you touched any unvaccinated animal;
- Use gloves for gardening and any contact with soil;
- Use gloves when handling animal’s feces;
- Use gloves if you need to touch or handle an animal that you suspect might be infected with zoonoses;
- Keep your animal’s living space clean and neat, free of dust;
- Study the area where you go hunting/ canoeing/ picking mushrooms or berries, etc, for potential risk of ticks/ insects. There are studies available that shows the population of ticks or insects in the particular area. Some states in the US, for example, are especially populated with zoonoses-transmitting animals;
- There are labs that can inspect your food for zoonoses. Contact the nearest laboratory for foodborne zoonoses if you have concerns with your food.
- If you see a sick/ bleeding animal in the wilderness, do not ever touch it or even approach it. Contact the professional for handling it instead. There are animal control government control services available in any country.
You can find zoonoses pdf file with the exhaustive list of recommendations issued by, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and available at their website. There is an international journal of zoonoses. There are zoonoses Wikipedia articles where you can find the exhaustive information on each of the cases of zoonoses.
Top 5 most widespread zoonotic diseases
Hookworm infection can be primarily transmitted via two ways:
1. Fecal orally. The infection is usually can catch up when an individual walks barefoot in soil and has soil exposure. Wild animals that are infected with zoonotic diseases pass eggs, which are microscopic in size. These eggs mix with the soil, so you cannot see them.
2. Dogs and cats, primarily dogs do consume poop. With hookworm infestation, it is very important that you would pick feces up to prevent your dogs to consume feces of other animals that are infected with hookworm. Puppies and kittens are also open to catch a hookworm infection. They can get a hookworm infection from their mother’s milk. Also, animals, except eating feces , can run through the dirt or walk, and they lick their paws, acquiring hookworm.
People get a hookworm infection through their skin. Hookworm larvae have the ability to infiltrate through the human skin while it typically forms a rash wherever it passes.
- Most commonly, people end up with rashes on their feet, because that is where they catch it;
- Sometimes it also affects hands, when people do gardening with their hands uncovered. This way, via hands, you can get a skin hookworm infection, which manifests itself in a travelling rash;
- For puppies and kittens hookworm infection can be lethal, because it can cause anemia, lethargy and weakness as well as malnutrition.
Round worms are large in size, spaghetti-resembling worms. Round worm infection is transmitted through your pet consuming infected feces.
It can also be transmitted transplacentally. Meaning, developing dogs and cats while in their mother’s uterus, can acquire round worms while the mom is pregnant, and as a result she would give a birth to an already positive puppy or kitten.
Round worms in humans is most commonly transmitted through the consumption of contaminated soil. For example, the frequent case is when you are gardening, picking up the vegetables that have fallen on the soil. Then you forget to wash it thoroughly and consume it. As a result you can get a roundworm which is at this stage is in eggs splattered in the dirt.
For round worms, humans are not of a great interest. People cannot be direct host for roundworms. This makes roundworms wandering all across the human body while raising all sorts of trouble.
Some manifestation of roundworms in human body include:
- Organ inflammation;
- In little children, roundworms are known to migrate through the eyes. An ophthalmologist can find a larvae of a roundworm in the back of the infected child’s eyes. It is for this reason that of the huge importance that puppies or kittens be dewormed if they show to be positive.
Puppies and kitten need to be checked with veterinarian if they are round worm positive. The checks are recommended to be done at 6, 8, 10, and 12 weeks of life. If they happen to be roundworm-positive, then there is high risk of exposure for small children through contamination.
Toxoplasmosis is a wide spread disease across the vertebrae. Practically any warm-blooded vertebrae can acquire it. Taxoplasmosis is primarily acquired and transmitted by cats and people.
Infections caused by toxoplasmosis do not entail any apparent symptoms in adults. Sometimes there may be several weeks or sometimes months of mild-form flu-like sickness. This can manifest itself in mild muscle aches and/or the formation of lymph nodes.
People who run the most risk of acquiring taxoplosmosis are:
- Pregnant women;
- HIV-positive individuals;
- People who are immune-suppressed generally;
- Little children.
Cats may not have overt symptoms of taxoplosmosis, however, this infection can be acquired when animals hunt. If a cat is eating a small prey, like a rabbit or a rodent, or even when handling raw meat from an animal that have had toxoplasmosis, they can pick it up and acquire.
- For pregnant women: Not to scoop letterboxes, because if kitty is taxoplosmosis-positive, she can shed taxoplosmosis into the stool, and you can acquire it while accidentally touching it. It is important to wear gloves at all times when you scoop the letterbox.
- To handle raw meat with gloves, as the infection can be transmitted through raw meat as well.
- If you feed your pets with raw meat, it is strongly recommended to freeze all raw foods for three consecutive days. This will eliminate all potential taxoplosmosis in the meat tissue, and your kitty will never acquire it.
Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal disease caused by parasites known as Cryptosporidium. These parasites can live inside the intestine of people as well as animals. Cryptosporidiosis is characterized by proximity to water. These microscopic parasites love inhabiting water. It belongs to the type of fecal-oral contamination. Little children can acquire an infection by bathing in infected swimming pools.
Animals can spread out Cryptosporidiosis by defecating in ponds or swimming pools, or in their close proximity. If people later drink water from such ponds or lakes, they can also acquire it.
Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria that belongs to the Borrelia type. These bacteria are carried and transmitted primarily by ticks, usually referred to as deer-ticks, or black ticks. The most common sign of acquired Lyme diseases is a gradually-expanding area of redness on the part of the skin where the bite by the tick occurred. The redness shows up not immediately after the bite has happened, but may show up a week or so after.
In its acute phase, Lyme disease can cause severe fever, lethargy. Dogs can have fever as result, too.
In the chronic phase, Lyme disease affects both dogs and cats in a similar way. They develop polyarthritis, which is a type of arthritis that involves several joints. This is an immune-mediated degenerative disease. One affected by this disease can develop kidney disease. Usually these black ticks transmit the infection from tick to dog or from tick to person.
How to keep safe from Lyme disease?
- Wash all vegetable and fruits thoroughly before feeding these to your pet;
- If you garden, make sure to wear gardening gloves at all times;
- Make sure to prevent your pets from going to poo in the sandboxes your children might play in. All pets tend to poop inside the sandboxes, so make sure you keep sandboxes for children separate from where your animals go pooping. Keep them covered all the time;
- It is important to wash your hands after you have made your gardening and have had a contact with your soil;
- Make sure to have good tick-protection for your kids, dogs, cats;
- If necessary, consider tick-repellants to prevent tick-attachment.
Top 7 interesting facts about zoonoses
1. The virus known as HIV originated as zoonosis and was transmitted to humans around 100 years ago. It later developed as solely human disease.
2. As a matter of fact, the majority of diseases attacking humans are animals-originated. There are only few direct animal-to-human zoonoses, like rabies.
3. Some of the known variations of your commonly spread cold as well as tuberculosis originate in animals as well.
4. Notorious Avian influеnza was a recent devastating case of newly-emerged zoonosis.
5. Flying animals, such as all sorts of birds and bats, are the most subversive carriers of zoonoses because of the distance they can travel to spread the disease they carry.
6. Some zoonoses have a lifе cycle that is dependant on the human that carries it. For this reason they are not classified as zoonoses, while initially they are carried from a harboring animal to the human. These diseases include river blindness, elеphantiasis, and scistomiasis.
7. In the year 1800, Edward Jenner invented zoonosis vaccine against smallpox. It was abstracted from a virus that caused cowpox. Because of this invention, this zoonoses had been erased completely by the year 1980.