Animal-borne diseases can cause tremendous disruptions in the global economy. More than half of all emerging viral and bacterial diseases that threaten humans now come from animals, according to medical reports.
News reports of animal-borne diseases, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow Disease), monkeypox, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and West Nile Virus have all appeared on a regular basis. Closer to home, there is concern over rabies, salmonella and diseases caused by tick bites.
Here is what you should know about some of these animal-borne diseases.
Rabies — A viral disease that is most often transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. In 2004, Rowan County had 23, or 1/2 fewer confirmed cases of rabies than the year before. It is still a disease we need to protect ourselves and our pets from. About 93 percent of cases occur in wildlife, such as raccoons, skunks and foxes. Cats and dogs usually make up the balance of cases.
Rabies symptoms include fever, partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, hyper salivation or difficulty swallowing. The onset of symptoms can be as quick as 24 hours. Human treatment includes a regimen of immune globulin and rabies vaccine. Keeping all pets current on their vaccinations also helps to protect us.
Salmonella — A bacterial disease that is fatal to about 1,000 people a year. Hospitals report approximately 40,000 cases annually. Infection is usually caused by drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated chicken or eggs. It also can be transmitted by reptiles (lizards, snakes and turtles), chicks and ducklings.
The common symptom of salmonella is severe diarrhea, fever and stomach pain. The onset of symptoms can be several hours to seven days following infection. Infections in humans usually resolve in five to seven days and do not require treatment. Antibiotics may be necessary if the infection spreads from the intestines.
Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiases, Tularemia — Tick-borne diseases that are rarely fatal, but the number of reported cases increase each year. Lyme disease was first identified in the 1970s and now accounts for 23,000 new cases a year. In Rowan County, the incidence of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is most common. The main symptoms are headache, fever, chills, aches, pains and sometimes nausea. The onset of symptoms usually occurs two-14 days after an infected tick bite. An antibiotic treatment can easily cure this disease.
E.coli — A difficult to kill bacteria that is common in the environment and is found in the intestines of most ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats). A recent outbreak of a strain of E.coli in North Carolina has left a number of children sick. Symptoms include severe diarrhea and in severe cases, kidney failure. The primary infection route is eating contaminated food, such as hamburger that is not handled properly; drinking contaminated liquid, such as apple cider or milk that is not pasteurized; or touching contaminated surfaces and not properly washing hands.
Protect your family
- Don’t keep wild pets, domestic or imported, such as raccoons, West African tree squirrels or rats. It may be exciting to have an unusual animal in the house, but it can bring risks.
- Maintain a sanitary routine if you keep reptiles (snakes, lizards or turtles). They frequently transmit diseases, particularly salmonella. Don’t own reptiles if young children, a pregnant woman or an immuno-compromised person lives in your home.
- Protect against mosquito bites. Use an insect repellent that contains DEET. Spray it on exposed skin and clothing. Remove from your yard any standing water where mosquitoes might breed.
- Protect against ticks. When hiking, stay in the middle of the path. Tuck your pants legs into your socks when walking in high grass or brush. Use and insect repellent that contains DEET and permethrin.
- Take sick pets to a veterinarian immediately. Some diseases, such as salmonella and roundworm, can be transmitted by ordinary house pets. Keep pets properly vaccinated.
- Personal hygiene. After touching animals at petting zoos and displays, wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. Check footwear after being in an area where animals congregate.