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Biosecurity in Practice - Zoonotic Disease

Zoonotic disease in the clinic environment

Zoonotic diseases are an ever-present reality in veterinary practice. Both food animal and companion animal practitioners have pivotal roles to play in reducing the risk of disease transmission between animals and people. At the nub of that obligation is mentoring human owners about the often unobserved and hidden danger of zoonotic diseases. No other profession works so intimately with people and animals or posses the intellectual capability to perform this role so ably.

Awareness of the constantly expanding inventory of emerging diseases, many of them zoonotic in nature, cements the veterinarians placement in the cycle of disease between animals and people.

When a veterinarian sees or suspects a zoonotic disease, the responsibility of the veterinarian to alert the owner of the potential for disease spread to humans is foremost. Often there is a legal responsibility to report the incident to either federal or provincial regulatory authorities. Failure to do either immediately creates a quandary of potential liability for the veterinarian and practice owner. Veterinarians have a moral and legal responsibility to provide a safe workplace for employees and coworkers who may not know how to recognize and protect themselves from zoonotic disease.

Approximately 868 of 1,415 (61%) known human pathogens are zoonotic, and approximately 132 of 175 (75%) emerging diseases that affect humans are zoonotic. There are more than 50 zoonotic diseases of importance in the United States. Documented zoonotic infections in veterinary personnel include the following: salmonellosis, cryptosporidiosis, plague, sporotrichosis, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, psittacosis,  dermatophytosis, leptospirosis, and Q fever.

Pet-associated organisms that pose a risk to people:

  • Bacterial species: Campylobacter, Salmonella, Leptospira, Bordetella,Capnocytophagia, Chlamydia, Mycobacterium, Bartonella (Cat Scratch Disease),Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile, Lyme disease (Borrelia)
  • Parasite species: Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Toxoplasma, roundworms (Toxocora), tapeworms, hook worm (Ancyclostoma), Trichuris, mange
  • Viruses: Rabies, Hanta virus ¬†¬†
  • Fungi: Histoplasmosis, Blastomycosis, Cryptococcus sp., Dermatophytosis(Microsporum spp, Trichophyton spp)

Food-animal associated organisms that pose a risk to people:

  • Bacterial species: Anthrax, Brucella, Mycobacterium, Campylobacter, Salmonella,Q Fever (Coxiella spp), E. coli O157:H7, Clostridium difficile, Leptospira,
  • Parasite species:Trichuris, Cryptosporidia, Babesia
  • Viruses: Influenza A; rabies, equine encephalitis (Togaviridae),
  • Fungi: Dermatophytosis