Zoonotic diseases are defined as those infectious illnesses that can be potentially transmitted from animal to human. While the vast majority of infectious diseases are specific to animal species, there are certain conditions that are potentially risky to humans. Probably the most common ones would be ones that are transmitted through the feces of infected animals. Amongst the common ones here include intestinal worms such as roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms, as well as certain protozoan parasites, including Giardia and toxoplasmosis.
Symptoms of these various zoonotic infections include varying degrees of vomiting and/or diarrhea, as well as even rare neurological symptoms particularly in young infants, who may inadvertently handle the feces of affected animals. Probably the most common of the infectious zoonotic diseases affecting the nervous system of people and animals is the disease rabies, which is transmitted by bite of affected mammals. Cutaneous larvae migrans is a rare skin disorder of humans that directly results from exposure to hookworm larvae in the environment.
The best preventative measures that an animal guardian can take include practicing good hygiene and using gloves when handling the feces of domestic animals. Certain other infectious diseases, including leptospirosis and bartanellosis are potentially transmitted through the skin or urine of affected animals, and may cause serious dermatologic or other systemic complications in affected humans. Other skin parasites, including fleas, scabies mites, and dermatophytosis (known as ringworm) also may be potentially transmitted to animal guardians.
In recent years and with the overuse of antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine, there have been increasing reports of MRSA infections of the skin emerging in animals, particularly in those who are immune-compromised. In many areas of the country many systemic fungal diseases are also potential risks from animals to humans.
The best prevention against most of these involves routine medical exams and evaluations of people with local physicians, as well as regular veterinary evaluations for pets, which should include routine fecal parasite exams, blood testing, and/or urine testing depending on the clinical history of the patient. Keeping up with routine vaccinations is also helpful with preventing certain infectious diseases, including rabies and leptospirosis.