What is zoonotic disease?
Zoonotic disease, or zoonoses, are diseases or infections that can pass between humans and animals, and can be serious conditions. Examples include salmonellosis, avian flu, Hendra virus, leptospirosis, rabies and lyssavirus.
Why should I know zoonotic disease?
Knowing what conditions to be on the lookout for can help keep both you and your pet happy and healthy. Some illness can show as different symptoms between you and your furry family member. They can also cause long-term health effects in humans even after the disease itself has passed, so it is vital that we are vigilant and take precautions against catching anything from our pets.
Some zoonotic diseases to know about in Australia:
- Q Fever: The bacteria Coxiella burnetii can be passed on from farm animals such as goats, sheep and cows through bodily fluids such as urine, faeces, milk and birthing products. Symptoms are like a severe flu with a fever, chills, bodily aches, nausea, vomiting and diahorea. A vaccine is available and should be considered if you work with livestock.
- Ringworm: Also known as dermatophytosis, both pets and people show similar signs of this fungal infection with circular patches of missing fur and/or inflamed, scaly skin.
- Leptospirosis: Your dog may well be vaccinated against this infection caused by the bacteria Leptospira, as there have been a number of recent confirmed cases in Sydney’s northern suburbs. While our pets can pick it up from rats, humans have a higher risk of transmission from the urine of cows, sheep and goats, which can contaminate soil and water.
- Psittacosis: Caused by the bacterium Chlamydia psittaci, psittacosis is a relatively rare condition that can develop in people who have had contact with infected birds. The most common symptoms to look for in birds are respiratory stress and diarrhoea, as well as weight loss and discharge from the eyes and nose. In people, infection can look like the flu, with head and body aches, fever, chills and breathing difficulties. It is treated with antibiotics.
- Lyssavirus: Lyssavirus is relatively uncommon (approximately 1-7% of surveyed wild Australian bats carry it) but can be transmitted to humans and can be fatal if not addressed immediately. Although sick animals are more likely to transmit the virus, healthy bats can also be carriers. Similar to rabies, lyssavirus can result in delirium, muscle failure and even death. The rabies vaccine can help protect from these effects, however there is little that can be done once symptoms emerge. A tetanus injection may also be necessary after a bat bite or scratch.