Zoonotic Diseases

Are you raising livestock? Do you have a backyard flock? Are you roommates with a reptile or do you enjoy the company of other four-legged furry friends? Animal companionship has many positive benefits for children and people of all ages. There are some risks that can be associated with animals even if they appear healthy. Children and persons with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk for complications from a zoonotic infection. Pets and Other Animals | Healthy Pets, Healthy People | CDC

What You Need To Know

  • Direct contact: Coming into contact with the saliva, blood, urine, mucous, feces, or other body fluids of an infected animal. Examples include petting or touching animals, and bites or scratches.
  • Indirect contact: Coming into contact with areas where animals live and roam, or objects or surfaces that have been contaminated with germs. Examples include aquarium tank water, pet habitats, chicken coops, barns, plants, and soil, as well as pet food and water dishes.
  • Vector-borne: Being bitten by a tick, or an insect like a mosquito or a flea.
  • Foodborne: Each year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food. Eating or drinking something unsafe, such as unpasteurized (raw) milk, undercooked meat or eggs, or raw fruits and vegetables that are contaminated with feces from an infected animal. Contaminated food can cause illness in people and animals, including pets.
  • Waterborne: Drinking or coming in contact with water that has been contaminated with feces from an infected animal.

Anyone can get sick from a zoonotic disease, including healthy people. However, some people are more at risk than others and should take steps to protect themselves or family members. These people are more likely than others to get really sick, and even die, from infection with certain diseases. These groups of people include:

A few simple preventative measures will help keep you and your family healthy while you play or work with your favorite critters:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling animals or any part of their environment
  • Avoid touching your mouth after animal contact
  • Don't eat or drink around animals
  • Keep livestock and live poultry outside of the home
  • Supervise small children around animals