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Animal Diseases

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There are many factors that can cause disease in multiple species of animals, even humans.

These animal diseases are called zoonoses. People are exposed to the bacteria, viruses, and parasites that cause zoonoses in a number of ways. Therefore, anyone working with or handling animals must take precautions to minimize their risk of infection.

The study, detailed this week in the report "Mapping of Poverty and Likely Zoonoses Hotspots," shows a large majority of deaths that occur in poor countries from animal diseases. Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, and India had the highest rates of linked illnesses and death.

About 60% of all human diseases are zoonotic. Most human infections with zoonoses come from livestock, while a few result in contact with wild animals.

Animal Diseases

Animal Diseases


Common Animal Diseases

Direct Bites

Bacterial infection from an animal bite, in particular, involving cats and dogs can be fatal, especially to young children. The mouths contain huge numbers of dangerous species of bacteria including Pasteurella multocida. A  bite pushes these bacteria deep into the skin, causing infection and resulting in extreme symptoms. All bites should be treated as serious if the skin is broken, see a doctor immediately.


Anthrax is a bacterial disease caused by Bacillus Anthracis. Most cases of anthrax in humans can be directly linked to infected animals, sometimes it can occur from infected soil, but this is unlikely.  People working with animals are at high risk. For example, farmers and veterinarians. Human anthrax acquired in this way is confined to the skin in 95% of cases. The lesion usually starts as an itchy painless papule which progresses to a black necrotic "eschar". If this disease makes its way to the lungs or respiratory system, it is extremely fatal.


Bovine brucellosis is a serious animal disease caused by Brucella Abortus that has been eradicated mostly. Brucellosis in humans can also be caused by another species Brucelloa suis, which is transmitted from pigs and causes severe "flu-like" symptoms.

Cat Scratch Fever

Cat Scratch Fever is a clinical syndrome that has been reported in humans for nearly a hundred years however Bartonella henslae was last identified in 1992. Disease results from a cat scratch (or bite) and transmission of the bacteria. The disease progresses with the failure of the wound healing to regional lymph node swelling and abscessation. Those people with close contact with large numbers of cats such as veterinarians are most at risk if scratched or bitten by a cat, keep a close eye on the wound to ensure it doesn't change shape.



Listeria monocytogenes is most commonly associated with clinical disease. It is transmitted through the ingestion of contaminated food. Listeriosis in humans is typically a foodborne disease that can be found in soft cheeses, meats, and milk. The clinical disease in humans can be mild or more serious causing abortion, meningoencephalitis, and death.


Q-fever is a disease caused by an organism named Coxiella burnetii. The symptoms of this disease in humans can be nonexistent to a severe cold or flu that may last for months. It is spread by inhalation of the organism from the placental fluids and urine of sheep, goats, and cattle. Affected animals appear normal so the disease can be hard to spot. The people most at risk of contracting this disease are veterinarians, shearers, and farm workers. A vaccine is available for people at risk.


Salmonella is bacteria that live in the intestinal tract of carrier animals. Infective numbers of the bacteria are shed into the feces of these animals particularly during periods of stress such as being transported. Other animals and humans can ingest the salmonella bacteria through direct or indirect contact with fecal material which produces gastroenteritis and infection.


Rabies occurs in many countries and on many continents throughout the world. The first recorded case was in 1867 in Tasmania, involving the death of a child and a dog. Traditionally dogs have been associated with rabies because they can act as the carrier of the disease and usually are the first to come into contact with men. Now we know that this is false, the main carrier of rabies is wildlife.

Treatment and Prevention

Fortunately, the occurrence of zoonotic, or animal diseases is uncommon and usually preventable by taking  precautions such as:

  • Practicing good personal hygiene.
  • Effective first aid treatment for cuts and scratches.
  • Using personal protective equipment
  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment.
  • Vaccinating pets and livestock.
  • Worming pets.
  • Controlling rodents.
  • Isolating and treating sick animals.
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