Zoonotic Diseases

By Kira Hall

What are zoonotic diseases? Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be spread from animals to humans. These types of diseases are quite common. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that zoonotic diseases cause about 3 out of every 5 new human illnesses, which is why they are constantly monitored.

Many people interact with at least one animal daily. Pets, animals at fairs or zoos, or even wildlife can carry diseases that are capable of being spread to humans. A lot of people probably picture getting bit by a rabid animal when thinking of zoonotic diseases. However, there are many ways that diseases can be spread from animals to humans. Some different ways that zoonotic diseases spread are explained in the chart at the bottom of the page. Eating or drinking something such as unpasteurized milk, undercooked meat, or unwashed produce that is contaminated with feces from an infected animal can also spread diseases. Saliva, blood, urine, or feces of an infected animal can spread disease; spreading zoonotic diseases this way is most likely going to happen between pets and their owners since people are more likely to come into this type of direct contact with their own pets. Below is a video over diseases you can get from your pets.

Zoonotic diseases can be brought on by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Examples of some zoonotic diseases are cat scratch fever (spread by cats), salmonella (spread through cattle, poultry, sheep, and pigs), and Lyme disease (spread mainly through ticks). Various zoonotic diseases can cause a multitude of symptoms. For example, Lyme disease can cause joint and muscle pain, fatigue, fever, headache, or a bulls-eye patterned rash (pictured below).


Thankfully, there are ways to protect yourself from zoonotic diseases. Many zoonotic diseases are spread through insects (ticks, mosquitos, fleas, etc.) so bug repellant is very useful. Also, check for ticks after you’ve been outdoors. Another simple way to protect yourself is by washing your hands after handling animals.


The Harris County Public Health & Environmental Service has composed a list of the 150 most common zoonotic diseases. Most include links to informational pages about the disease. The list can be found at:









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