disease, any harmful deviation from the normal structural or functional state of an organism, generally associated with certain signs and symptoms and differing in nature from physical injury. A diseased organism commonly exhibits signs or symptoms indicative of its abnormal state.
There are four main types of disease: infectious diseases, deficiency diseases, hereditary diseases (including both genetic diseases and non-genetic hereditary diseases), and physiological diseases. Diseases can also be classified in other ways, such as communicable versus non-communicable diseases.
Perhaps the most notorious of all infectious diseases, the bubonic and pneumonic plagues are believed to be the cause of the Black Death that rampaged through Asia, Europe, and Africa in the 14th century killing an estimated 50 million people.
Which disease has no cure? cancer. dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. advanced lung, heart, kidney, and liver disease. stroke and other neurological diseases, including motor neuron disease and multiple sclerosis.
What Are Zoonotic Diseases?
A zoonotic disease is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen (an infectious agent, such as a bacterium, virus, parasite, or prion) that has jumped from an animal (usually a vertebrate) to a human. Typically, the first infected human transmits the infectious agent to at least one other human, who, in turn, infects others.
Major modern diseases such as Ebola virus disease and salmonellosis are zoonoses. HIV was a zoonotic disease transmitted to humans in the early part of the 20th century, though it has now mutated to a separate human-only disease. Most strains of influenza that infect humans are human diseases, although many strains of bird flu and swine flu are zoonoses; these viruses occasionally recombine with human strains of the flu and can cause pandemics such as the 1918 Spanish flu or the 2009 swine flu.
Taenia solium infection is one of the neglected tropical diseases with public health and veterinary concern in endemic regions. Zoonoses can be caused by a range of disease pathogens such as emergent viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites; of 1,415 pathogens known to infect humans, 61% were zoonotic. Most human diseases originated in animals; however, only diseases that routinely involve non-human to human transmissions, such as rabies, are considered direct zoonoses.
Zoonoses have different modes of transmission
Zoonoses have different modes of transmission. In direct zoonosis, the disease is directly transmitted from animals to humans through media such as air (influenza) or through bites and saliva (rabies). In contrast, transmission can also occur via an intermediate species (referred to as a vector), which carries the disease pathogen without getting sick. When humans infect animals, it is called reverse zoonosis or anthroponosis. The term is from Greek: ζῷον zoon “animal” and νόσος nosos “sickness”.
Host genetics plays an important role in determining which animal viruses will be able to make copies of themselves in the human body. Dangerous animal viruses are those that require few mutations to begin replicating themselves in human cells. These viruses are dangerous since the required combinations of mutations might randomly arise in the natural reservoir.
Prevention and control
Prevention methods for zoonotic diseases differ for each pathogen; however, several practices are recognized as effective in reducing risk at the community and personal levels. Safe and appropriate guidelines for animal care in the agricultural sector help to reduce the potential for foodborne zoonotic disease outbreaks through foods such as meat, eggs, dairy or even some vegetables.
Standards for clean drinking water and waste removal, as well as protections for surface water in the natural environment, are also important and effective. Education campaigns to promote handwashing after contact with animals and other behavioural adjustments can reduce community spread of zoonotic diseases when they occur.
Antimicrobial resistance is a complicating factor in the control and prevention of zoonoses. The use of antibiotics in animals raised for food is widespread and increases the potential for drug-resistant strains of zoonotic pathogens capable of spreading quickly in animal and human populations.
Who is at risk?
Zoonotic pathogens can spread to humans through any contact point with domestic, agricultural or wild animals. Markets selling the meat or by-products of wild animals are particularly high risk due to the large number of new or undocumented pathogens known to exist in some wild animal populations. Agricultural workers in areas with a high use of antibiotics for farm animals may be at increased risk of pathogens resistant to current antimicrobial drugs.
People living adjacent to wilderness areas or in semi-urban areas with higher numbers of wild animals are at risk of disease from animals such as rats, foxes or raccoons. Urbanization and the destruction of natural habitats increase the risk of zoonotic diseases by increasing contact between humans and wild animals.
How do germs spread between animals and people?
Because of the close connection between people and animals, it’s important to be aware of the common ways people can get infected with germs that can cause zoonotic diseases. These can include:
- Direct contact: Coming into contact with the saliva, blood, urine, mucous, feces, or other body fluids of an infected animal. Examples include petting or touching animals, and bites or scratches.
- Indirect contact: Coming into contact with areas where animals live and roam, or objects or surfaces that have been contaminated with germs. Examples include aquarium tank water, pet habitats, chicken coops, barns, plants, and soil, as well as pet food and water dishes.
- Vector-borne: Being bitten by a tick, or an insect like a mosquito or a flea.
- Foodborne: Each year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food. Eating or drinking something unsafe, such as unpasteurized (raw) milk, undercooked meat or eggs, or raw fruits and vegetables that are contaminated with feces from an infected animal. Contaminated food can cause illness in people and animals, including pets.
- Waterborne: Drinking or coming in contact with water that has been contaminated with feces from an infected animal.
Who is at a higher risk of serious illness from zoonotic diseases?
Anyone can get sick from a zoonotic disease, including healthy people. However, some people are more at risk than others and should take steps to protect themselves or family members. These people are more likely than others to get really sick, and even die, from infection with certain diseases. These groups of people include:
- Children younger than 5
- Adults older than 65
- People with weakened immune systems
- Pregnant women
What can you do to protect yourself and your family from zoonotic diseases?
People can come in contact with animals in many places. This includes at home and away from home, in places like petting zoos, fairs, schools, stores, and parks. Insects, like mosquitoes and fleas, and ticks bite people and animals day and night. Thankfully, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your family from zoonotic diseases.
1. Keep hands clean. Washing your hands right after being around animals, even if you didn’t touch any animals, is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
- Always wash your hands after being around animals, even if you didn’t touch the animals.
- Many germs are spread by not washing hands properly with soap and clean, running water.
- If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Because hand sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs, it is important to wash your hands with soap and water if they are available.
2. Know the simple things you can do to stay safe around your pets.
3. Prevent bites from mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas.
4. Learn more about ways to handle food safely—whether it’s for yourself or your family, your pet, or other animals.
5. Be aware of zoonotic diseases both at home, away from home (such as at petting zoos or other animal exhibits), in childcare settings or schools and when you travel.
6. Avoid bites and scratches from animals.
8 Zoonotic Diseases
Animals can bring tremendous joy to our lives, but they can also make us sick. Every year, tens of thousands of people fall ill to diseases transmitted through animal contact. These conditions are known as zoonotic diseases, or zoonoses. Here are some of the most common.
This very common bacterial infection can be transmitted through direct contact with animals such as dogs, rodents, and reptiles as well as through consumption of infected food. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, headache, and spleen enlargement.
Salmonellosis is an infection with a bacteria called Salmonella, Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of animals, including birds. Salmonella are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Every year, approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States.
Contact with the urine of infected dogs, mice, or rats, or with urine-contaminated materials, can quickly spread this debilitating disease. Symptoms, which present in two phases, include headache, muscle ache, stiff neck, eye pain when viewing bright light, and inflammation of nerves of the eyes, brain, and spinal column.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals. It is caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira. In humans, it can cause a wide range of symptoms, some of which may be mistaken for other diseases. Some infected persons, however, may have no symptoms at all.
The zoonotic form of this bacterial disease is commonly acquired from cattle by inhaling droplets in the air or ingesting contaminated dairy or meat products. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, and, in severe cases, chronic pulmonary disease, which can be fatal.
The bacteria that cause TB are spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Most people infected with the bacteria that cause tuberculosis don’t have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they usually include a cough (sometimes blood-tinged), weight loss, night sweats and fever.
Treatment isn’t always required for those without symptoms. Patients with active symptoms will require a long course of treatment involving multiple antibiotics.
This bacterial disease is commonly transmitted to humans through soil or water contaminated by sheep, goats, or pigs. It can also be directly transmitted by these and other animals. Symptoms include fever, chills, skin lesions, and swollen lymph glands.
Melioidosis, also called Whitmore’s disease, is an infectious disease that can infect humans or animals. The disease is caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. It is predominately a disease of tropical climates, especially in Southeast Asia and northern Australia where it is widespread.
5. Pox diseases
A variety of animals, including primates, pigs, horses, and birds, can spread poxviruses, which are acquired through contact with infected animals. Some poxviruses can be acquired by inhaling airborne particles and some by skin contact. Symptoms include localized lesions, rash, fever, sore throat, malaise, and encephalitis.
Pox diseases occur worldwide and are caused by viruses in multiple different genera; examples include Avipoxvirus, Leporipoxvirus, Orthopoxvirus, and Parapoxvirus. Examples of pox diseases include sheep pox, horse pox, fowl pox, cowpox, goat pox, and swine pox.
Dogs are the best-known culprit (see Old Yeller), but almost all mammals can spread the rabies virus, which is commonly transmitted via bites or other contact with infected saliva. Symptoms include headache, fever, salivation, excessive perspiration, inability to swallow, and seizures.
However, rabies is usually spread through an animal bite. Animals most likely to spread rabies include dogs, bats, coyotes, foxes, skunks and raccoons.
Symptoms include fever, headache, excess salivation, muscle spasms, paralysis and mental confusion. Seek immediate medical attention after a bite or suspected bite. There is no specific treatment for rabies. Once symptoms appear, it’s nearly always fatal. A vaccine can prevent infection.
These illnesses include some of the world’s most terrifying diseases, including Ebola, Lassa fever, and Marburg hemorrhagic fever. The viruses that cause these diseases are transmitted by a variety of animals, ranging from rodents to monkeys, depending on the specific virus. Meanwhile, symptoms include high fever, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, and hemorrhage. Several of these diseases have high mortality rates.
Viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) are a group of diseases that are caused by several distinct families of viruses. The term “viral hemorrhagic fever” refers to a condition that affects many organ systems of the body, damages the overall cardiovascular system, and reduces the body’s ability to function on its own.
This parasitic condition is the most common waterborne diarrheal disease in humans. It can be spread by a wide variety of animals, both wild and domestic. Therefore, paths of transmission include consuming contaminated water or food, person-to-person contact, and contact with infected animals. Symptoms include nausea, severe diarrhea, and fatigue.
Giardiasis is an infection in your small intestine. It’s caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia lamblia. Giardiasis spreads through contact with infected people. And you can get giardiasis by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Pet dogs and cats also frequently contract giardia.
Giardiasis spreads through contaminated food or water or by person-to-person contact. It’s most common in areas with poor sanitation and unsafe water. Symptoms might include watery diarrhoea alternating with greasy stools. Fatigue, cramps and belching wind may also occur.
Some people have no symptoms. Most cases clear up on their own within a few weeks. Severe cases are treated with antibiotics.
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