Zoonotic Diseases

Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be transferred between people and animals. Some of the most commonly-recognized zoonotic diseases include West Nile virus, E. Coli 0157:H7, avian flu, and Rabies. Experts estimate 60 percent of all human diseases can move from human to animal and vice-versa. In fact, over the past three decades, approximately 75 percent of new emerging human infectious diseases have been zoonotic.

Scientists are working to identify and protect against potential health threats developing outside the human species. On a global level, physicians, veterinarians, scientists, and government agencies are working together to examine and eradicate public health diseases at the nexus of animal and human health. Keeping animals healthy helps keep humans healthy.

How can the spread of zoonotic diseases be prevented?

  • By vaccinating pets and livestock
  • By providing veterinarians, farmers and ranchers with appropriate medicines to treatment and prevent illness in pets and livestock
  • By washing your hands after handling an animal

Why are animal medicines needed for zoonotic diseases?

Disease prevention is a continuum that starts with keeping animals healthy and results in improved human health. Proper animal health management and veterinary care that includes the use of vaccines, flea and tick products, and pharmaceuticals can help keep animals healthy and prevent disease transmission to humans and improve the way we live.

Zoonotic Disease in Focus: H1N1

The current outbreak of human flu known as H1N1 is caused by a novel, reassorted virus carrying genes from influenza viruses found in humans, swine and birds. What resulted is a new virus currently causing disease in humans. While this strain has not been found in animals in the United States, it has been found in pigs in a few other countries. Influenza viruses are known to commonly move between animals and humans.

Like other influenzas, H1N1 spreads among people through coughing or sneezing by individuals with influenza. People can also become infected by touching something – such as a surface or object – with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. It is not passed to humans through food.

The recent H1N1 outbreak reminds us that one way to protect human health is to control the spread of the disease in the animal population. In turn, healthy animals contribute to an overall healthier planet. Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the animal health industry are cooperatively working toward an animal vaccine for H1N1 that will give veterinarians a tool to control the spread of the disease in pigs in the event it begins to infect pigs.

What are Experts Saying?

  • Veterinarians are the first-line of defense in protecting against the spread of zoonotic diseases. Hear from Dr. Ron DeHaven of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) about what the general public should know about zoonotic diseases. | Video
  • Learn how to prevent diseases that can be transmitted from your cat or dog. | Video
  • CAST Publications on Avian Influenza and Vaccine Development |PDF
  • The Human-Animal Connection |PDF

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