Busting myths of zoonotic infections


Zoonotic disease is a result of a virus or bacteria, and can travel between species, precisely between animal and human. There are a lot of misconceptions about zoonotic diseases, such as pets cannot transmit infections to humans, or zoonotic disease is about illness in zoo animals only, or that zoonotic diseases occur in tropical places. And these misconceptions can lead to serious, complicated health problems. More than half of humans in US have at least 1 or more pets. According to recent report, these include 77.7 millions of cats, 65 millions of dogs, 185 millions of freshwater fish and 49.9 other types of animals.

Even though owning a cat is not a big risk factor for getting the infection, there are some diseases that might cause a severe damage to human health. One of the diseases that cats can transmit to humans is Toxoplasmosis, which is a result of infection with Toxoplasma gondii parasite. Around 500 millions of people worldwide are infected with Toxoplasmosis, and more than 200,000 individuals are affected in US annually. To better understand how an individual infected with this disease, it is important to understand the life cycle. Cats serve as intermediate hosts for Toxoplasma gondii, and they pass the oocysts in their feces. An infected cat contaminates the soil with feces, which contains oocysts, then small rodents ingest the oocysts from the feces and become infected. When another cat ingests infected rodent, it acquires Toxoplasma. Disease is transmitted though cat feces and contaminated food, but when cat becomes infected, it only passes Toxoplasma in its feces for 2 weeks only. Disease is not transmitted through direct contact with cat, children younger than 5 years are more prone to be infected, because of their behavior to touch everything and put in their mouth.

Symptoms include muscle pain, fatigue, fever, headache, and enlarged neck lymph nodes which might last for few weeks. Diagnosis of the diseases might be difficult, because it mimics the symptoms of some other diseases, such as lymphoma. Molecular methods are used to diagnose the disease; can be detected in blood, amniotic fluid, or cerebrospinal fluid. Prevention of disease is careful hand washing, avoiding exposure, treatments include medications: anti-parasite, chemotherapy protective drugs, antibiotics, and antifungal.





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