Zoonosis – Animal Disease that may also Affect Humans

Bronwyn Murdoch, Attwood

There are many disease agents that can cause disease in multiple species of animals including humans. These diseases are called zoonoses. People are exposed to the bacteria, protozoa, fungi, viruses and parasites that cause zoonoses in a number of ways and therefore anyone working with or handling animals needs to know about zoonoses and the precautions they must take to minimise their risk of infection.

People who have close contact with large numbers of animals such as farmers, abattoir workers, shearers, knackery workers and veterinarians are at a higher risk of contracting a zoonotic disease. Members of the wider community are also at risk from those zoonoses that can be transmitted by family pets. Occasionally infection can also occur through indirect contact with other animals such as Listeriosis from drinking un-pasteurised milk or Leptospirosis from contact with infected urine that has contaminated streams or ponds. Some people are more susceptible to contracting a zoonotic disease due to their immune status, for example those people who are on immunosuppressive treatment, pregnant women, alcoholics and diabetics.

Fortunately the occurrence of zoonotic disease is uncommon and contact with zoonotic disease agents is preventable by taking a number of precautions including:

  • practising good personal hygiene;
  • providing prompt and effective first aid treatment to cuts and scratches;
  • using personal protective equipment eg overalls, gloves, boots, goggles, aprons;
  • cleaning and disinfecting work spaces and equipment;
  • vaccinating pets and livestock;
  • worming pets;
  • controlling rodents;
  • isolating and treating sick animals.

It is important to realise that zoonoses may be contracted from both ill and apparently healthy animals.

Useful Information

The full article by Bronwyn Murdoch, Attwood on Zoonoses



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