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Zoonosis, also called zoonotic disease refers to diseases that can be passed from animals, whether wild or domesticated, to humans.


Although many diseases are species specific, meaning that they can only occur in one animal species, many other diseases can be spread between different animal species. These are infectious diseases, caused by bacteria, viruses, or other disease causing organisms that can live as well in humans as in other animals.
There are different methods of transmission for different diseases. In some cases, zoonotic diseases are transferred by direct contact with infected animals, much as being near an infected human can cause the spread of an infectious disease. Other diseases are spread by drinking water that contains the eggs of parasites. The eggs enter the water supply from the feces of infected animals. Still others are spread by eating the flesh of infected animals. Tapeworms are spread this way. Other diseases are spread by insect vectors. An insect, such as a flea or tick, feeds on an infected animal, then feeds on a human. In the process, the insect transfers the infecting organism.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta have said that most emerging diseases around the world are zoonotic. The director of the CDC has said that 11 of the last 12 emerging infections in the world with serious health consequences has probably arisen from animal sources. Wild animal trade occurs across countries and many people take in wild animals as domestic pets. However, pet shops and food markets are not properly testing for diseases and parasites that can cause harm to humans and other animals.
Some zoonotic diseases are well known, such as rats (plague), deer tick (Lyme disease). Others are not as well known. For example, elephants may develop tuberculosis, and spread it to humans.

Causes and symptoms

The following is a partial list of animals and the diseases that they may carry. Not all animal carriers are listed, nor are all the diseases that the various species may carry.
  • Bats are important rabies carriers, and also carry several other viral diseases that can affect humans.
  • Cats may carry the causative organisms for plague, anthrax, cowpox, tapeworm, and many bacterial infections.
  • Dogs may carry plague, tapeworm, rabies, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme disease.
  • Horses may carry anthrax, rabies, and Salmonella infections.
  • Cattle may carry the organisms that cause anthrax, European tick-borne encephalitis, rabies, tapeworm, Salmonella infections and many bacterial and viral diseases.
  • Pigs are best known for carrying tapeworm, but may also carry a large number of other infections including anthrax, influenza, and rabies.
  • Sheep and goats may carry rabies, European tick-borne encephalitis, Salmonella infections, and many bacterial and viral diseases.
  • Rabbits may carry plague and Q-Fever.
  • Birds may carry Campylobacteriosis, Chlamydia psittaci, Pasteurella multocida, Histoplasma capsulatum, Salmonellosis, and others.
Zoonotic diseases may be spread in different ways. Tapeworms can often spread to humans when people eat the infected meat of cattle, and swine. Other diseases are transferred by insect vectors, often blood-feeding insects that carry the cause of the disease from one animal to another.


Diagnosis of the disease is made in the usual manner, by identifying the infecting organism. Each disease has established symptoms and tests. Identifying the carrier may be easy, or may be more difficult when the cause is a fairly common infection. For example, tapeworms are usually species specific. Cattle, pigs, and fish all carry different species of tapeworms, although all can be transmitted to humans who eat undercooked meat containing live tapeworm eggs. Once the tapeworm has been identified, it is easy to tell which species the tapeworm came from.
Other zoonotic infections may be harder to identify. Sometimes the infection is fairly common among both humans and animals, and it is impossible to tell. Snakes may carry the bacteria Escherichia coli and Proteus vulgaris, but since these bacteria are already common among humans, it would be difficult to trace infections back to snakes.
Because of increased trade between nations, and changes in animal habitats, there are often new zoonotic diseases. These may be found in animals transported from one nation to another, bringing with them new diseases. In some cases, changes in the environment lead to changes in the migratory habits of animal species, bringing new infections.


Treatment is the established treatment for the specific infection.


Prevention of zoonotic infections may take different forms, depending on the nature of the carrier and the infection.
Some zoonotic infections can be avoided by immunizing the animals that carry the disease. Pets and other domestic animals should have rabies vaccinations, and wild animals are immunized with an oral vaccine that is encased in a suitable bait. In some places, the bait is dropped by airplane over the range of the potential rabies carrier. When the animal eats the bait, they also ingest the oral vaccine, thereby protecting them from rabies, and reducing the risk of spread of the disease. This method has been used to protect foxes, coyotes, and other wild animals.
Many zoonotic diseases that are passed by eating the meat of infected animals can be prevented by proper cooking of the infected meat. Tapeworm infestations can be prevented by cooking, and Salmonella infections from chickens and eggs can be prevented by being sure that both the meat and the eggs are fully cooked.

Key terms

Anthrax — A diease of wam blooded animals, particularly cattle and sheep, transmissable to humans. The disease causes severe skin and lung damage.
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy — A progressive, fatal disease of the nervous system of domestic animals. It is transmitted by eating infected food. Also known as Mad Cow disease.
Lyme disease — An acute disease which is usually marked by skin rash, fever, fatigue and chills. Left untreated, it may cause heart and nervous system damage.
Q-Fever — A disease that is marked by high fever, chills and muscle pain. It is seen in North America, Europe, and parts of Africa. It may be spread by drinking raw milk, or by tick bites.
Zoonotic — A disease which can be spread from animals to humans.
For other zoonotic diseases, programs are in place to eliminate the host, or the vector that spreads the disease. Plague is prevented by elimination of the rats—a common source of the infection—and of fleas that carry the disease from rats to humans. Efforts around the world to control bovine spongiform encephalitis, better known as Mad Cow disease, have focused on the destruction of infected cattle to prevent spread of the disease. Regulations on the makeup of the cattle feed to ensure safety and prevent the disease have helped curb its spread.
Other means of prevention simply rely on care. People living in areas where Lyme disease is common are warned to take precautions against the bite of the deer tick, which transfers the disease. These precautions include not walking in tall grass, not walking bare legged, and wearing light-colored clothing so that the presence of the dark ticks can be readily seen.



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"When man's best friend isn't." Mother Earth News June-July 2000.
"Zoonoses." Agricultural Research February 2000.
"Zoonotic Diseases." Medical Laboratory Observer March 2004: 12.
"The zoonotic threat: Curbing pet-to-people infections." Dog World October 1999.


American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK). Topeka Zoological Park 3601 SW 29th St., Ste. 133 Topeka, KS 66614-2054.
National Animal Disease Center Zoonotic Research Unit. 2300 Dayton Ave. PO Box 70 Ames, IA 50010.


 [zo″o-no´sis] (pl. zoono´ses)
a disease of animals transmissible to humans. adj., adj zoonot´ic.


An infection or infestation shared in nature by humans and other animals.
See also: anthropozoonosis, cyclozoonosis, metazoonosis, saprozoonosis, zooanthroponosis.
[zoo- + G. nosos, disease]


/zoo·no·sis/ (-no´sis) (zo-on´ĕ-sis) pl. zoono´ses   disease of animals transmissible to humans.zoonot´ic


n. pl. zoono·ses (-sēz′)
A disease of animals, such as rabies or psittacosis, that can be transmitted to humans.

zo′o·not′ic (-ə-nŏt′ĭk) adj.


[zō·on′əsis, zō′ənō′sis]
Etymology: Gk, zoon + nosis, disease
a disease of animals that is transmissible to humans from its primary animal host. Some kinds of zoonoses are equine encephalitis, leptospirosis, rabies, and yellow fever.


Epidemiology An infection in which the microbe's infectious cycle is completed between man and mammal


An infection or infestation shared in nature by humans and other animals that are the normal or usual host; a disease of humans acquired from an animal source.
See also: anthropozoonosis, metazoonosis, saprozoonosis
[zoo- + G. nosos, disease]


a disease occurring primarily in animals, but that can occasionally be transmitted to humans, for example bovine tuberculosis, brucellosis.

zoonosis (zōō·ônˑ ··sis),

n a disease that originates in an animal species and is transmitted to a human host. Examples are yellow fever, rabies, equine encephalitis, leptospirosis, and possibly SARS.


pl. zoonoses; disease of animals transmissible to humans.

direct zoonosis
one transmitted by contact or via an inanimate vehicle and which requires only one reservoir vertebrate (passing directly from animal to humans without the involvement of a vector or intermediate host) to maintain the cycle of infection, e.g. rabies. See also cyclozoonosis, metazoonosis, saprozoonosis.
References in periodicals archive ?
El unico encuestado que afirmo no haber recibido formacion en materia de bioseguridad y prevencion de zoonosis tambien pertenecia a quinto curso.
Respecto al tipo de zoonosis adquirida por los profesionales del presente estudio se reportaron enfermedades bacterianas, micosis y brucelosis con el 12,5% para cada una de ellas, a diferencia de los resultados del estudio desarrollado en Chile por Deck (8), que reporto que de los medicos de pequenos animales encuestados, las zoonosis de mayor incidencia corresponde a un 37,5% tanto para la sarna sarcoptica como para la dermatomicosis, siendo el resto, otras enfermedades de menor ocurrencia como la histoplasmosis, fiebre de rasguno de gato, infecciones por Staphylococcus intermedius, pulgas y gastroenteritis por coccidias.
Fuente de financiamiento: Presupuesto asignado por la Facultad de Medicina de la Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos para la investigacion y Presupuesto por Resultados del Programa Estrategico 0018 de Enfermedades Metaxenicas y Zoonosis de la DIRESA Lima.
El cuestionario tuvo cinco secciones: conocimiento general sobre zoonosis (15 preguntas), etiologia (17 preguntas), epidemiologia (15 preguntas), transmision (15 preguntas) y prevencion y control (28 preguntas).
b) colaborar con el fortalecimiento, implementacion y ejecucion de programas de prevencion y control de zoonosis y enfermedades animales transfronterizas;
Public health and veterinary research frequently focuses on zoonotic diseases--those passed from animals to humans, while far less is known about reverse zoonosis, the transmission of diseases from humans to animals.
Dr Sasaki is a veterinary researcher at the Research Center for Zoonosis Control, Hokkaido University, and is certified as a Zoonosis Control Expert by Hokkaido University.
bovis, en los paises industrializados, pero en los paises en desarrollo, donde las medidas de control son inadecuadas o no se llevan a cabo, aun es importante la presencia de zoonosis por dicho microorganismo, estimandose que alrededor del 24% de las cabezas de ganado bovino en la region latinoamericana, no se halla controlado contra la tuberculosis, correspondiendo a zonas en donde vive el 60% de la poblacion humana, lo cual implica un elevado riesgo de transmision de la enfermedad [3].
6 per cent indicating that a zoonosis may be a mode of transmission for HEV also in India.
A zoonosis is any infectious disease that can be transmitted from animals,
En agosto 26 y 27 de 2010 se realizo en el Auditorio Fundadores de la Universidad CES en Medellin, el III Simposio Internacional de Zoonosis y el VIII Foro Departamental de Zoonosis, que conto con la presencia de cuatro expertos internacionales y 12 nacionales, y la asistencia de cerca de 200 personas procedentes de todo el pais.
No obstante, se considera que las causas mas frecuentes de la aparicion de agentes infecciosos en zonas geograficas antes libres de ellos o de agentes infecciosos no reportados son las zoonosis.