WHAT’S A ZOONOTIC DISEASE?

September 25, 2018

 

“Yes, Lisa.”

    

“You’ve told us in your blogs on April 17, 2018 and May 15, 2018 about how rabies was regarded in ancient times, as a spirit, but what do we know about it today?”   

    

“Rabies is one of many diseases referred to as zoonotic, meaning it is transmitted to humans from animals. In particular, rabies is caused by a virus that is transmitted to humans from mammals, such as dogs, bats, skunks, or racoons. Any contact in which the infected mammal’s fluid, eg., its saliva or urine, penetrates the skin causes rabies.”     

   

“Why did you call rabies “the deadliest fever?”

   

“Because without treatment the mortality rate is almost 100%. That means that you are virtually certain to die if you are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal and not treated promptly. There are other zoonotic diseases, such as malaria, that infect many more people each year, eg., 100,000,000 as compared to about 55,000 infected with rabies, but the likelihood of recovering from malaria without treatment is higher.”

    

“So, rabies is the deadliest fever based on its death rate.”

    

“Exactly, Lisa.”   

   

“Are there other zoonotic diseases?”   

   

“Yes, Lisa, the number of zoonotic diseases is legion. You might have heard of some of them: Lyme disease, Ebola, West Nile fever, influenza, maybe even the Plague, and Anthrax. There are many ways to look at the cause of these diseases. One way is to study the pathogen itself, the agent such as the virus, bacterium, fungus, or other infectious organism that causes the disease. Another way is to study the ecology of that organism, where it lives and how it comes in contact with humans. Both approaches are necessary to control these diseases.”

    

“How can I find out more?”  

   

“Great question, Lisa. For more about zoonotic diseases and their life cycles, read Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen. It’s a New York Times Notable Book so you’ll find it in most libraries. To me, the moral is let’s not continue to invade and disturb the equilibrium of natural habitats.”


 

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