There are millions of pets living in the United States at this time, as well as countless other animals living in the wild. Many of us come into contact with animals in some way or form every single day. All animals, like humans, carry a diverse range of bacteria on their bodies at any one time. Unfortunately, not all of these are healthy and good bacteria. There are also germs, fungi, parasites, and viruses. Some can make your pet become very sick, while others can prove fatal. Many people think that if their pet is sick then there is little or no risk to the human members of their family. Unfortunately, this isn't necessarily always the case.
Zoonosis is the name given to a variety of diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans that they live or come into contact with. You may also hear of the actual diseases referred to as zoonotic diseases.
Unfortunately, zoonosis is surprisingly common. A study by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as many as 61% of human diseases actually stem from animals and are zoonotic in nature. If that wasn't shocking enough, as many as 7% of new diseases that have been discovered during the last decade are also zoonotic.
Common Zoonotic Diseases
You have probably heard of many of the following diseases which are all zoonotic:
- E. Coli
- Lyme Disease
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Parrot Fever
- Bird Flu
- Cat Scratch Fever
- West Nile Virus
- Swine Flu
- Zika Fever
How Are Zoonotic Diseases Contracted?
One of the best ways to protect yourself from contracting a zoonotic disease is to be aware of the different ways in which you can get infected.
The easiest way of contracting a zoonotic disease is through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected animal. This includes their urine, feces, mucus, saliva, and blood. For example, if you are bitten by an animal with a zoonotic disease, their saliva will touch your skin and the wound and enter your bloodstream, passing the disease on to you.
This means coming into contact with an object or environment where an animal with a zoonotic disease has been roaming. Handling pet food and water dishes are a very common way of transmitting zoonotic diseases.
Also known as a vector-borne transmission, this occurs when you are bitten by a creature such as a tick, a flea or a mosquito.
Studies estimate that each year, 1 in 6 Americans become sick with a zoonotic disease due to eating food that has been contaminated with fecal matter from an infected animal.
How To Keep Yourself Safe From Zoonotic Diseases
Now you know how zoonotic diseases are spread, you can take proactive steps to prevent them from being passed on to you and your family. These include:
- Rigorous hand-washing immediately after contact with animals or their environment. Be sure to use soap and clean, running water.
- Handle food safely.
- Avoid bites and scratches from animals.
- Handling your pet safely.
- Invest in disease preventatives from your veterinary team.
Fortunately, it is possible to protect your pet against developing any of the vast majority of zoonotic diseases if you subscribe to a robust preventative care program. This includes regularly scheduled preventative treatments against creatures that can transmit zoonotic diseases such as fleas, ticks, and mosquitos.