What is Zoonotic Diseases? Causes and Prevention

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If you live in an environment where you’re constantly around animals, or spend a lot of time around them, you may be at the risk of contracting Zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases, also known as zoonosis, are the infections caused by animals to humans.
Animals can be great companions to humans and offer a great friendship.

However, if not taken care of, the germs from these animals can be cause of some serious infections as well. Germs, bacteria, fungi, etc. can also be present in healthy looking animals, and thus, one should always be careful. Here’s everything you need to know about zoonotic diseases, their causes, types, and prevention.

Causes of Zoonotic Diseases

Zoonotic Diseases
Zoonotic Diseases can be caused by a virus, bacteria, parasites, or fungus in the animals. These germs can be spread through direct contact i.e. petting them or farming them or through indirect contact through food, and water, the major causes of zoonotic diseases are:

  1. Food and water contamination: Contaminated food and water supply is one of the major causes of zoonotic diseases. Drinking unpasteurized milk, eating undercooked or raw meat, eggs, etc. can lead to several stomach related infections. Eating fruits and vegetables infected with animal faeces is also one of the causes for infection and thus, should always be looked out for.
  2. Direct contact with animals: If you have pets, you are more prone to infections like rabies, ringworm, etc. Farmers primarily come in direct contact with several animals like horses, donkeys, cattle, birds, etc. and are at a risk of Glanders, bird flu, clamydiosis, and more. An animal can cause you an infection even when it appears healthy. Therefore, it is crucial to get them vaccinated at regular intervals to get rid of any potential risks.
  3. Exposure to contaminated environments: Working on a farm, around a zoo, or any place where you are always surrounded by animals can expose you to a lot of contamination. Animal habitats, aquarium tank water, pet food and water dishes, plants, etc. that may carry a lot of bacteria. Thus, these things to be handled with care with appropriate safety measures in place.
  4. Bites, attacks, and insect vectors: An attack by a wild animal, like a bite, or even a scratch can cause an infection. Animal bites from non-vaccinated animals lead to rabies. Apart from that, mosquito and insect bites can lead to zika fever, west Nile fever, tularaemia, and more.
  5. Hunting: People who like hunting and eating bush meat, can contract various infection including HIV due to improper handling of the meat and not cleaning the meat properly.

Common Zoonotic Diseases

In the recent past, one of the zoonotic diseases that has claimed the lives of many is the monkey pox. A bit similar to the small pox that we see obliterated today, it can come to humans from monkeys – either by touch or any physical contact.

However, that is not the only common zoonotic disease that you need to be aware of. As you shall see below, most of these diseases are quite deadly in nature.

Some common zoonotic diseases include:

1. Rabies:

Rabies is spread through the bite of an infected animal to a healthy one. It infects the nervous system and can have symptoms like paranoia, fits of rage, etc. This disease is fatal and should be prevented with vaccination as once the symptoms start too show, it can’t be treated

2. Ebola:

Ebola is a viral haemorrhagic fever that has killed over 50 percent of the affected individuals. The virus’ signs include high fever, muscular pain, sore throat, etc. The virus subsequently decreases the function of livers and kidneys and can eventually lead to death due to internal bleeding. It is spread through contact with the body fluids or blood of the infected animal/individual.

3. Monkey Pox:

Monkey pox virus is transmitted through animal bite or coming in direct contact with the blood of an infected monkey. It can spread from both animals to humans and humans to humans. The symptoms include swelling of lymph nodes, muscular pain, etc. The virus should be recognized early on and is very difficult to treat.

4. Diarrheal Diseases:

Eating contaminated food or drinking water filled with animal saliva can cause a lot of stomach related infections, and diarrheal diseases. However, depending on their type, they can be treated and aren’t fatal in nature.

Prevention from Zoonotic Diseases

One needs to take a lot of care and ensure cleanliness while dealing with animals on an everyday basis or taking care of them. Here are a few prevention tips to avoid contracting infection from animals:

  1. Clean your hands: Keeping your hands clean right after being around animals is the first step to prevent any infection. Even if you didn’t touch any animals or were at a distance from them, washing your hands is the best way to get rid of all kinds of germs.
  2. Use insect and mosquito repellents to avoid getting bitten from them.
  3. Wash all your produce before cooking and drink pasteurized milk only.
  4. If you have pets, get them vaccinated regularly.
  5. If you’re on a farm or have pets, always clean the areas where your pets stay. Make sure the animals are always clean and healthy.
  6. If any animal around you is sick, avoid directly touching them and make use of gloves.
  7. Avoid triggering any wild animal, especially when they appear sick, so that they don’t bite or scratch you.

References;

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/basics/zoonotic-diseases.html
  2. http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/dtopics/zoo/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoonosis
  4. http://www.who.int/zoonoses/en/

This article is for educative purposes only and not to be substituted for professional medical advice.