Serious Diseases We Can Get From Animals

February 13, 2021

There are known to be approximately forty important diseases individuals can catch directly from animals. Of these, reports indicate about thirteen of them are responsible for approximately 2.2 million human deaths each year. Diseases passed from animals to humans are commonly referred to as zoonotic diseases. These kinds of diseases can be bacterial, viral, or parasitic, or may involve unconventional agents. Regardless of which of these forms the zoonotic disease comes in, it is important to be familiar with them since humans can catch them, and they can be quite dangerous.

With this in mind, keep reading to reveal the full details on some of the deadly diseases humans can get from animals now.

The Ebola Virus

The Ebola virus can be transmitted by the African fruit bat or primates to humans. Unlike other types of viruses, Ebola is airborne but can also be transmitted by touch. The virus is transmitted mainly through bodily fluids such as breast milk, blood, saliva, sweat, fecal matter, urine, diarrhea, vomiting, and semen. When exposed to humans with the virus it manifests after an incubation period of around three weeks. Early symptoms of Ebola are similar to typhoid fever, malaria, and flu. They typically include a high fever, muscle and joint aches, headaches, weakness, and a sore throat. There is no vaccine or cure, and infected individuals are given supportive care.

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African Sleeping Sickness

A deadly parasitic disease carried by infected tsetse flies. When an infected tsetse fly that serves as both host and vector bites an individual or animal, the infection spreads rapidly through the blood stream. While taking blood from its host, the fly injects the trypanosome parasite into skin tissue.

Symptoms of African sleeping sickness include fever, headaches, drowsiness, insomnia, sleepiness, sweating, mood changes, anxiety, and swollen lymph nodes. The bite site becomes red, swollen and very painful. No vaccines are available for immunity and few medically related prevention options. The best option to avoid infection is the use of insect repellents.

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Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF)

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is a viral disease that infects individuals through the bites of infected ticks. It can spread through contact with infected patients and contact with tissue or blood from viremic livestock.

The onset is sudden with initial symptoms such as high fever, stomach, joint and back pain, and vomiting. Common symptoms include changes in sensory perception and mood, a red throat, red spots on the palate, red eyes and in severe cases include jaundice. As the illness progresses, severe nose bleeds, bruising, and uncontrolled bleeding at injection sites can be seen, usually starting on the fourth day of the illness and lasts for about two weeks. The antiviral drug ribavirin is used to treat human disease in South Africa. However, recovery is often slow.

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Marburg virus disease, a hemorrhagic virus native to Africa, is related to the Ebola virus and is identified by severe bleeding and organ failure. Marburg virus disease has been found in monkeys, chimps, and fruit bats in Africa. The virus spreads from person to person via contaminated needles and body fluids. Symptoms of this condition include fever, severe headache, joint and muscle aches, chills and physical weakness.

As the virus progresses, symptoms become severe and may include nausea and vomiting, red eyes, raised rash, chest pains, coughing, stomach pain, internal bleeding, and severe weight loss. No drugs have been approved to treat the virus, and instead, patients diagnosed with Marburg virus disease receive treatment for complications and supportive care. Vaccines are in the process of being developed.

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Rift Valley Fever

Rift Valley fever is a viral zoonotic disease that causes severe disease in both humans and animals and originated from the Rift Valley of Kenya. Human infections result from direct or indirect contact with infected animal organs or blood. Humans can become infected when drinking unpasteurized milk from infected animals. Bites from infected mosquitoes, commonly the Aedes mosquito, infect humans and animals. The incubation period is between two to six days and symptoms include the sudden onset of flu-like symptoms, such as fever, muscle and joint pain, and headaches.

Some patients experience sensitivity to light, vomiting, neck stiffness, and loss of appetite and in the early stages of the disease, it can be mistaken for meningitis. Other symptoms include severe headache, disorientation, memory loss, confusion, hallucinations, vertigo, convulsions, lethargy, and coma. No specific treatment is required for patients with mild symptoms of Rift Valley fever. For the more severe cases, the predominant treatment is general supportive therapy. An inactivated vaccine is available for humans, though the vaccine is not licensed and is not commercially available.

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Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. It can be transferred from one human to another via the mosquito. Since malaria can be lethal its early detection is vital. Malaria infects around 500 million individuals annually worldwide and is a disease with the largest death toll. Malaria is a well-disguised disease and displays similar symptoms to the common cold and flu, including fever followed with shivering, severe headaches, vomiting, excessive perspiration, and anemia.

Cerebral malaria is the most severe strain with neurological complications. Surviving patients have an increased risk of cognitive and neurological deficits, epilepsy, and behavioral difficulties, making cerebral malaria a leading cause of childhood neuro-disability in Sub-Saharan Africa. The type of treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms and age of the patient. Antimalarial drugs have been marked by a constant struggle between evolving drug-resistant parasites and the search for new drug formulations.

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Rabies is a fatal infectious viral disease that causes excitotoxicity, over stimulating the brain causing cells to die. It accounts for one of the highest fatality rates of any virus, and is transmitted by infected dogs and the saliva of bat bites. The infection causes tens of thousands of deaths annually, mostly in Asia and Africa. The incubation period is usually one to three months. Initial symptoms are fever, pain, unusual or unexplained tingling, and a pricking or burning sensation at the wound site.

When the virus spreads through the central nervous system, progressive fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord develop. Furious rabies displays signs of hyperactivity, hydrophobia, excited behavior, and sometimes aerophobia. After a few days, death occurs by cardiorespiratory arrest. Rabies is a vaccine-preventable viral disease and occurs mainly in remote rural communities where children between five and fourteen years old are the most frequent victims. Effective treatment soon after exposure can prevent the onset of symptoms and death.

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Listeriosis is a serious disease caused by the bacterium known as Listeria monocytogenes. Any warm-blooded animal can get it, but animals with weak immune systems are more susceptible. This means older and younger animals, or those already sick, can contract the disease easier than healthy animals. But what about humans? We can get listeriosis from contaminated food and from being in close contact with infected animals. Symptoms of listeriosis include fever, diarrhea, headache, confusion, loss of balance, convulsions, and muscle pain. Pregnant women who get infected usually only show flu-like symptoms, but the disease can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. Symptoms usually begin anywhere from a week to eight weeks after exposure to the bacterium. Lab work is needed for diagnosis, and it is treated with antibiotics.

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Query Fever

Query fever is a rare, but serious, disease individuals usually get from cattle, goats, and sheep. Many zoo animals can spread the bacteria that cause the disease as well, but transmission to humans from domestic animals is almost unheard of. Victims of this disease contract it from contact with the saliva or feces of infected animals. Breathing in dust from the bedding and living areas of sick animals has caused this illness as well, and it is thought a recent outbreak in Australia was spread primarily through this route. It only takes a couple of the Coxiella burnetii bacterium to cause an infection. Query fever is known for its flu-like symptoms. The disease usually goes away on its own, but it is highly recommended to seek medical treatment because it may cause long-term health effects that can interfere with a patient's life and ability to work for many years. Diagnosis is usually made through lab testing and imaging, and treatment normally consists of a two-week course of antibiotics.

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Brucellosis is also a very rare zoonotic disease. It is transmitted from cattle to humans through unpasteurized dairy products, especially milk and cheese. Hunters can also contract the illness through contact with meat and fluids from the animals they kill. Transmission from animals to humans through the air is extremely rare, but it has been suspected in several cases. Doctors diagnose brucellosis using lab tests, and treatment involves a long course of a combination of antibiotics. Brucellosis doesn't cure itself, and if left untreated, it can cause problems in the bones and joints. Death from the disease is rare, even if it is untreated for years, and only two percent of untreated cases end up being fatal. Symptoms of brucellosis to look out for include fever, abdominal pain, general pain and weakness in the body, backache, headache, and lack of appetite. Hunters, farmers, and anyone who often works with animals are at the highest risk of contracting this painful condition. There is currently no vaccine available, but at least one university is now researching the bacteria that cause it in hopes of developing better treatment and possibly a vaccine.

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West Nile Virus

The West Nile virus is spread to humans through mosquito bites. Mosquitos pick up the virus from infected birds, and they can spend the rest of their lives spreading the virus to any animal they bite. This virus is incurable and has no effective vaccine. The only way to prevent West Nile virus is to avoid mosquitos during peak mosquito season, which runs from early summer to the beginning of autumn. Symptoms of West Nile virus include headache, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, rash, and fever. Patients are given supportive treatment, usually in a hospital, until the worst of the symptoms go away. While West Nile virus usually doesn't cause death in fairly healthy humans, older individuals and those with compromised immune systems can develop neurological problems. Even then, death typically only occurs in less than one percent of cases.

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Leishmaniasis is a condition caused by parasites transmitted from animals to humans by phlebotomine sand flies. There are three forms of it that can infect humans: cutaneous, visceral, and mucocutaneous. The cutaneous variety is a boil-like protrusion on the skin, and it usually heals on its own, even without treatment. The visceral form of this condition causes serious infections and damage to the internal organs, including the liver, spleen, and intestines. This form has a very high fatality rate when left untreated. The final form, mucocutaneous, results in mucosal or skin ulcers, typically resulting in damage around the mouth and nose.

Treatment for leishmaniasis includes antimony-based medicines and strong antibiotics. The best way to avoid this disease is to keep from being bitten by sand flies. This means staying indoors as much as possible at night, using bug spray, and keeping insect netting over beds when visiting the tropical and subtropical regions where the parasite lives.

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