About the disease
Zoonotic disease is an infection that is passed from an animal to a human. It includes a range of diseases that can be passed through being bitten or from having close contact with an animal. The most common zoonotic diseases are rabies, acquired intestinal diseases, Ebola virus and influenza.
During the 20th century, HIV was a zoonotic disease that was passed from animals to humans. These days, HIV can only be passed from humans to humans. Zoonotic diseases are usually passed through bacteria and manifest themselves in the body as viruses. In fact, 61% of all infections are originally zoonotic, which is an impressive number.
There are two main types of zoonotic disease: direct and indirect. Zoonotic diseases such as rabies or influenza are directly transmitted from an animal that is suffering from symptoms of the disease to a human. Other zoontic diseases, however, can be caught from animals that are simply carriers of the disease and suffer no symptoms themselves. Such animals are referred to as vectors.
One of the most dangerous zoonotic diseases, rabies, causes inflammation of the brain, affecting the mind. The most common manifestation of rabies is uncontrolled violent movement and confusion. On average, 30,000 people die of rabies each year. Fortunately, vaccination can in most cases increase a person’s chances of survival following infection. Rabies is usually transmitted through being bitten by an infected animal.
Avian influenza is another common zoonotic disease, commonly known as bird flu. Although humans are also able to catch dog and horse flu, the most common type of influenza passed from animals to humans is bird flu. This virus is transmitted through the air and can be caught by sneezing. A person who has contracted this virus from a bird can transmit it to another person. Acquired intestinal diseases, on the other hand, are usually contracted after a person has eaten an infected animal.
- Uncontrollable movements (in rabies)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Diagnosis is usually based on the kind of symptoms the person has. Also, if the person lives in close proximity to the location of an outbreak of a virus, it is highly likely that the person has contracted it. If the person has been bitten by a dog, especially if the dog was acting strangely or violently, it indicates that the person may have been infected with rabies.
- A blood test can establish which type of disease the person has contracted and can help to determine how much the infection has affected the person’s overall health.
- An endoscopy can be performed to investigate an acquired intestinal disease.
- Treatment of a zoonotic disease mostly depends on what kind of disease the person has contracted. Conservative treatment is usually enough to cure an infection. Vaccination is the most common type of conservative treatment and can be administered as a preventative measure or as a treatment after infection. This is particularly important for people who live in regions where zoonotic diseases are especially prevalent.
- In the case of rabies or the Ebola virus, a vaccine is injected into the infected person’s bloodstream. The sooner the infected person receives a vaccination, the better their chances are that symptoms won’t appear.
- In the case of bird flu, antiviral medications are administered.