What are zoonotic diseases?

Zoonotic diseases are diseases and infections that are naturally transmitted between animals and people. The CDC recognizes over 150 of these diseases! Impacted animals can be wild or domestic, from the fish in the water to the monkeys in the trees. According to the CDC, scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals.

There are four classifications of disease:

  • Bacterial – Lyme Disease, Tuberculosis, salmonella 
  • Mycotic – fungal infections that affect the tissues like ringworm, and fungal meningitis 
  • Parasitic – Toxoplasmosis, tapeworms 
  • Viral – avian flu, COVID19

Depending on the disease or infection, there are several ways that zoonotic diseases are spreading. Direct contact means you came into contact with saliva, blood, urine, feces, or other bodily fluids. This could be as simple as petting or touching animals! Indirect contact happens when you live near animals or come into contact with surfaces that have been contaminated. Foodborne, waterborne, and vector-borne(bites) are also common ways to spread these diseases.

Photo from EGU

Sounds bad for humans, but how does it impact animals?

While most zoonotic diseases come from animals, many happen in reverse order, a.k.a. us spreading disease. Examples of this include types of influenza, staph infections, various parasite infections, and more. As zoo animals & wildlife continue to decline, we must take precautions to avoid spreading disease. These precautions include washing hands frequently, avoiding contact with wildlife, picking up pet waste, and never contributing to unethical tourism.

But wait – there’s more!

So much is still unknown about disease transmission and diagnoses in zoo animals & wildlife, making it extremely dangerous for humans to spread zoonotic diseases. There is little to no government funding for researchers and veterinarians to study zoo animal & wildlife health. Combining the lack of information and money results in more animal extinction.

What is Wild Animal Health Fund doing to help? 

The Wild Animal Health Fund was created in 2012 by the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians to fund zoo animal & wildlife health projects conducted by veterinarians and scientists around the world. At the Wild Animal Health Fund, we know that animal health is the missing piece in the puzzle of conservation. Last year, we funded 18 incredible studies with topics ranging from disease treatment to pain relief in birds. The world’s animals deserve happy and healthy lives and need YOUR help.