Zoonotic Diseases: Things We Can Share with Animals


Illness is a major concern when it comes to taking care of yourself. No one wants to come down with the flu or a stomach virus. There are many diseases that we worry about when we are in close quarters with other humans. There, however, are many diseases that we can catch, and pass on to, animals. A few even come from insects. These range in severity from mild to deadly. Many times the animal or insect is only a carrier.  Zoonotic diseases can be the cause of various types of illnesses, including viruses, parasites, bacteria, and fungus.

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Common Diseases
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When you look back over time, the majority of human illnesses began in the animal realm. We know many of these diseases to be prevalent in societ, today. Ebola, HIV, and the swine flu are all zoonotic diseases. HIV has now evolved into a human-only form. The swine and bird flu are able to combine with various human strains of the flu. This often causes major complications during flu season. Pandemics are one of the results. Anthrax, tuberculosis, and toxoplasmosis are also well-known in the human world. Many people are exposed to toxoplasmosis by owning and caring for house cats. Immunity is usually built up without any symptoms becoming apparent. If exposure happens for the first time during a pregnancy, however, issues can become severe.  Most of the diseases we deal with today have an interesting history related to animals. It is unknown how many zoonotic diseases are yet to be discovered.

How They Spread

With the popularity of city life, there is much less contact with farm animals and wildlife. Insects, however, are apparent in most areas. Zoonotic diseases, also known as Zoonosis, can spread to humans in a variety of ways. They can be airborne or spread through contact with the animal. Some of these diseases can remain active on surfaces touched by the animals. Insects usually spread diseases through bites. Some rare diseases, such as mad cow disease, are spread through the consumption of the diseased animal. Tuberculosis became rampant when people made a habit of bringing their cattle into the lower level of their homes. Some of these diseases are transmitted non-directly through a vector. This can be an insect, for example, that picks up the disease from an animal. The insect would then bring the disease to the human through a bite.

Ticks and Mosquitos

The diseases caused by ticks and mosquitos are some of the most well-known around the world. Ticks can cause Lyme disease, which may not show up for two weeks after the tick latches on. The telltale bulls-eye rash lets you know that the bacteria are becoming more prevalent in the blood. Humans begin experiencing headaches, fever, and fatigue. The tick remains healthy and moves on to the next victim.

Mosquitos can cause malaria, zika virus, and west nile.  All of these can be extremely dangerous when they affect the very young and elderly populations. Malaria, however, is the one that people seem to fear the most. This may be because it has had so much exposure in the past. Tales from Africa travel far and wide. The disease has been around so long that part of the population has developed a genetic resistance. Individuals with sickle cell anemia should not have excelled in the population. The health complications it causes are severe enough for it to be weaned out of the gene pool. It has, however, persisted in parts of Africa. Individuals with sickle cell anemia have a natural resistance to malaria. The mosquitos that spread disease do not show any signs of illness.

It can be frightening to think of something as a zoonotic disease. This label always makes it a bit more mysterious. Many diseases, however, began in the animal kingdom. Mutations can make these diseases a purely human problem, over time. People are more concerned about contracting HIV from another person than they are from a monkey, for instance. The flu also spreads quickly between humans once it infects a human host. We can also pass diseases back to animals in a process known as reverse zoonosis. As long as we continue to interact with the work around us, various diseases are a possibility.

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