If you think that zoonotic diseases are like something out of a horror show, you’re only half right. Some of them are – and some of them aren’t. Here’s a zoonotic line up worth mentioning.

Cat-scratch disease

Cat-scratch disease is so-named because you can get it from rough play or aggressive actions of a cat. It is caused by the Bartonella bacteria. If you’re infected, you may have the following symptoms: fever, headache, poor appetite, weakness, fatigue, numbness, or pain. Swollen, painful lymph nodes are also another sign.

Cats, on the other hand, can be totally without symptoms.


Hookworms are parasites that you can get if you step barefoot or touch a surface with even the smallest amount of fecal matter. Once the hookworm larvae go through your skin, you’re infected.

The site of the infection will have a rash.

Do make sure your non-human family members (like dogs and cats) keep away from the feces of other animals. Symptoms of infections for our furry friends and family include weight loss, lethargy, loss of appetite, and could possible lead to death, due to all the mentioned symptoms.


Roundworms are usually passed on to humans through contact with soil or dirt contaminated by dog or puppy feces. In humans, this can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Dogs can also experience the same symptoms, and can trigger weight loss.

Medicines can remove the infection, but prevention is best. Do make sure that children do not play in areas where dogs are known to pass their waste. Adults should be careful about what they touch in such places, too.


Contrary to the name, ringworm is a fungal infection that can be passed on from animals. It’s called ringworm because of the appearance of the red, circular skin infections that are its trademark.

Prevention is through the careful handling of animals with suspicious wounds, and thorough baths and cleaning of the hands after handling such animals.


The classic bacteria for food poisoning can be passed on from animal to humans through waste matter. This is why food using poultry and livestock have to be handled carefully in preparation, to prevent infection. Reptile pets are also vulnerable to Salmonella. The bacteria produce gastroenteritis.


Toxoplasmosis is present in cats and humans, though any mammal can be infected, practically. This disease is the reason pregnant women or those who have immune system issues should not be handling cat waste. Children are also easily affected.

Outdoor-loving cats, particularly those who do still hunt for food, are most at risk of being infected by the prey they hunt. Cats may not even have symptoms of the infection, but humans will have flu-like symptoms.


This disease is caused by bacteria that can be transmitted from bird to human, through dust contaminated by waste matter from an infected bird. Symptoms include those associated with flu, with diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting added.

Preventive measures include good personal hygiene, making sure to avoid any bird from placing its head near your mouth, and dampening the floor of the cage before cleaning, to prevent the waste matter from becoming a dust cloud.


This is a disease common in poultry and cows. People are usually infected through the consumption of contaminated meat, or from dairy products made from contaminated animals.

It can be very serious, with symptoms that include confusion, headaches, and seizures.


Known as Crypto in shorthand, this disease is basically an infestation of a water-based protozoan parasite. Dogs and cats can acquire these parasites by drinking from contaminated water supplies – in other words, infected animals have pooped or urinated in them. Symptoms include watery diarrhea and vomiting.

People usually are infected by swimming in contaminated water spots. If your pet is showing symptoms as mentioned above, you should consult a veterinarian.


This disease can be transferred to humans by coming into contact with contaminated waters, or an infected animal’s urine (dogs and rats are common carriers). Human symptoms include high fever, headache, bleeding, chills, and vomiting.

Vaccines have been developed in some countries for humans and dogs, but the effectivity of these vaccines is somewhat limited.

Nasty ones

Some zoonotic diseases are really the stuff of nightmares. The following diseases are so scary that they cross over to nightmare territory in how they have affected whole populations, or simply how deadly they are.


Rabies is the poster child for dangerous zoonotic diseases. It causes around tens of thousands of deaths annually around the world. It is usually transferred when an infected animal bitesa person or animal.

It is 100% fatal if not treated by vaccination immediately. Symptoms include Fever, light sensitivity, hyperactivity, and hydrophobia. For this reason, if your furry friend or family member is vulnerable to rabies, you should make sure that they are properly vaccinated. If you work in an environment where you may be, scratched, wounded, or bitten by unvaccinated animals, then you should be up to date with your preventive periodic vaccine shots.


The plague is a terrible as it sounds, with rats and fleas being the normal source of infection. Chills, chest pain, aching body area, and sudden fever are all normal symptoms. In worse cases, the plague can enter the blood and the lungs, bringing about more serious symptoms that can kill a person.

Preventing pest infestation is a preemptive strike against plague. Medical treatment can help a person survive the disease.

Zoonotic influenza (Avian, etc.)

Zoonotic influenza (or “flu”) infections are diseases that have crossed over to humans from animals such as birds and pigs. Symptoms can range from mild respiratory infections to severe pneumonia. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are also becoming more common as symptoms of zoonotic influenza.

In this case, although the chances for infection are low, once the disease variant has infected human, infection becomes somehow easier in terms of human-to-human contact.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s August 2019 issue.

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