What are zoonotic diseases?
Zoonoses, or zoonotic diseases, are infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans from the animals. Zoonotic diseases and infections can be caused by a variety of pathogens like parasites, bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It is known, that most diseases that affect humans have origins from animals, but only the diseases that can be transmitted directly from the animals to people can be labeled as zoonoses, for example, rabies.
There are several ways for transmission and zoonoses can be divided into direct and indirect contact. For zoonoses that are considered transmissible by direct contact it is needed close contact for airborne diseases, bite wounds or saliva exchange. The zoonoses that are considered transmissible by indirect contact a vector is needed. This vector is usually an insect that gets infected by an infected animal and then spreads the pathogen to a human.
There is another category of zoonoses, and that is anthroponosis or reverse zoonoses. In this case, the human is responsible for transmitting the pathogen to the animal.
It is believed that from around 1400 pathogens that infect people, 60% are zoonotic.
Why we celebrate World Zoonoses Day?
The holiday is celebrated annually on July 6th in order to commemorate Louis Pasteur. On July 6th, 1885, Pasteur, successfully administered the very first rabies vaccine, a devastating viral zoonotic disease. The patient was Joseph Meister, a man that has been attacked by a rabid dog. This day, July 6th is reserved for raising awareness for the risk and consequences of zoonotic diseases around the world. A zoonotic disease can have an extensive impact on human welfare and death rates. For example, rabies, a viral zoonotic disease that is preventable with a vaccine, kills around 160 people per day. Another example is the influenza virus. With this virus circulating on farms and in farm animals the chances for a pandemic are huge.
Another factor of zoonotic diseases is the impact they have on the economy, both in developed and developing countries. The avian influenza outbreak in the United States 2014/2015, for example, led to the death of over 48 million birds and the loss of more than $3.3 billion.
How to avoid zoonoses and be protected?
As we mentioned above, zoonoses are either transmitted by direct or indirect contact. If you live in an area that is known for at least one zoonotic diseases, preventative measures should be taken.
* Good hygiene is a great way to start. Always be aware that washing your hands with soap and clean water can go long way in preventing the spreading of a disease, any disease.
* If you live or travel to an area that is known for vector-borne zoonotic diseases, a vector such as ticks, fleas, and mosquitos, always wear preventative clothing that will cover your whole body and thus protect yourself from the potential bites.
* Always store and handle food properly and with caution. Many zoonotic diseases can be transmitted through undercooked meat.
* Try to avoid bites and scratches from animals, especially animals with unknown vaccine history. If you work in the veterinary field always be prepared.
If an animal bites you, no matter what, wash the wound with cold water and soap thoroughly for about 15 minutes and immediately seek medical care. Even if there is no rabies on the radar in your area, it’s a good idea to get the “after-bite serum”.
* If you work in a laboratory that handles zoonotic diseases, make sure to maintain a risk-free working environment. Make sure to always follow all precautions and to maintain high-quality conditions.
How to celebrate World Zoonoses Day?
Be part of the global movement for raising awareness about zoonotic diseases.
If you work in education or academia, use that to spread the message to the youth. If you’re a part of the veterinary field, use this day, and every day to educate clients and pet owners about zoonoses, prevention, vaccines and the importance of all that.
Use your social media accounts to reach even more people! Share your experience if you ever contracted a zoonotic disease, spread the word how others can be more prepared.