Watch | All about zoonotic diseases

A zoonosis is any disease or infection that is naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans. Zoonoses may be bacterial, viral, or parasitic, or may involve unconventional agents. Animals can sometimes appear healthy even when they are carrying germs that can make people sick, depending on the disease.

How do germs spread between animals and people?

Direct contact | While petting or touching animals, and bites or scratches.

Indirect contact | Coming into contact with areas where animals live and roam.

Vector-borne | Being bitten by a tick, or an insect like a mosquito or a fleafood-borne  Eating or drinking contaminated food.

Water-borne | Drinking or coming in contact with water that has been contaminated with feces from an infected animal.

Although anyone can get sick from a zoonotic disease, those at a higher risk of contraction are:

  • Children younger than 5
  •  Adults older than 65
  •  People with weakened immune systems
  • Pregnant women

Also read: The time is right for OneHealth science

Types of Influenza in Animals

Bat influenza |  Influenza A viruses are found in bats. Internal genes of bat flu viruses are compatible with human flu viruses. H17N10, H18N11 found only in bats.

Influenza in cats | Cats can be infected with influenza viruses, including avian influenza viruses.

Canine influenza (Dog flu) | A contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused by specific type A influenza viruses — H3N8, H3N2. No human infections with canine influenza have ever been reported.

Swine/Variant influenza | A respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses.

Avian influenza | These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. All subtypes of influenza A viruses apart from H17N10 and H18N11 can infect birds.

Watch | What is the hantavirus?

Kyasanur Forest Disease

An outbreak of one such zoonotic disease took place near the Kyasanur Forest in Karnataka in 1957. The Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD), also known as monkey fever, is a highly dangerous haemorrhagic fever. It is a viral disease transmitted to humans through a tick species usually found on monkeys. Those who live in in disease-prone areas in forests and those who visit forests frequently for their livelihood, such as forest guards and health workers are at risk.

COVID-19 pandemic

Another example of a zoonotic disease is COVID-19, which broke out in China's Wuhan district in December 2019. It was declared a pandemic by WHO in March 2020. COVID-19 is caused by the virus SARS-COV2 which is believed to have started in Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. Other types of zoonotic viruses include SARS-CoV, which was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV which was transmitted from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals. These have not yet infected humans.

How does one safeguard against Zoonotic diseases?

  • Always wash your hands after being around animals.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Prevent bites from mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas.
  • Avoid bites and scratches from animals.


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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 5:55:04 PM |

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