Zoonoses are infections or diseases that can be transmitted directly or indirectly between animals and humans.
Zoonoses are transmissible between humans and animals in a variety of ways and an infection can also often be transmitted through multiple ways. Certain zoonotic diseases in humans are mainly caused by consuming contaminated food or drinking water and include for example salmonellosis and listeriosis. Other zoonotic diseases are mainly transmitted to humans through other means than food, including:
- By vectors, i.e. living organisms that transmit infectious agents from an infected animal to a human or another animal. Vectors are frequently arthropods, such as mosquitoes, ticks, flies, fleas and lice and can transmit diseases such as malaria, West-Nile virus and Lyme disease.
- Through direct contact or close proximity with infected animals. Diseases that are mainly transmissible to other animals or humans in this way include:
- Avian influenza , which is a viral disease occurring in poultry and other birds. Pigs can also be carriers of this virus as well as of other influenza viruses. Avian influenza primarily affects birds, but there have been cases of viruses being transmitted to humans and other animals through close contact with infected birds.
- Q fever is a disease, caused by the Coxiela burnetti bacterium, affecting animals and humans. It has been reported to be present in a wide range of species, including cattle, sheep and goats as well as birds and arthropods. Human infection mainly results from the inhalation of dust contaminated with bacteria from the placenta and birth fluids or faeces from infected animals. Other modes of transmission, such as through contaminated water or the feces of infected arthropods are rare.
- A specific strain of the Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacterium (CC398) which can be transmitted through contact with live animals.
- Salmonella infections can originate from contact with infected reptiles and amphibians such as pet snakes, iguanas and frogs or their environment.
- Verotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (E. coli)can be acquired through contact with infected farm animals.
- These diseases can also be transmitted through the environment, e.g. Verotoxin-producing E. coli in contaminated swimming water.
The key actors in the European Union (EU) are working together to reduce this public health threat:
- EU Institutions, together with EU Member States, develop control measures and legislation
- Scientific bodies such as EFSA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) analyse data collected by EU Member States and assess risks for human and animal health