There are a variety of diseases transmissible from animals to people. Diseases of public health significance include avian chlamydiosis (psittacosis), avian influenza, novel influenza, and parasitic infections caused by Echinococcus multilocularis.
Avian chlamydiosis is a disease of birds, caused by the bacterium Chlamydophila psittaci. Although most species of birds are able to transmit the disease, the most common are psittacine (parrot-type) birds, especially cockatiels and budgerigars (commonly called parakeets or budgies). Avian chlamydiosis can also occur in poultry, pigeons and doves as well as canaries and finches, but is less frequently diagnosed in these birds.
Birds can transmit avian chlamydiosis to humans, causing human psittacosis. The transmission of avian chlamydiosis to humans occurs when a person inhales dust or other dried secretions from birds. Bacterial infections caused by C. psittaci can cause severe pneumonia and other serious health problems in humans.
While there is no vaccine to prevent human psittacosis, there are several things you can do to protect yourself and others, including:
Avian influenza (“bird flu”) is caused by the Type “A” influenza virus. This virus can affect several species of food-producing birds (chickens, turkeys, quails, guinea fowl, etc.), as well as pet and wild birds. Avian influenza viruses are generally categorized based on the severity of disease they cause in birds, namely:
While most avian influenza viruses are low pathogenic, causing little or no signs of illness in birds, some avian influenza viruses are highly pathogenic and can cause severe illness and death in birds.
Bird flu is spread by direct contact between infected birds and healthy birds. It can spread when healthy birds come into contact with or interact with equipment (including water and feed) contaminated by the saliva, secretions or feces of infected birds.
Although bird flu mostly spreads among birds, it can spread to other species, such as mammals. While very rare, transmission to humans can occur through exposure to infected birds or contaminated environments, such as live poultry markets. Most avian influenza viruses do not cause disease in humans.
Bird flu is present in wild bird populations across the world. Typically, wild birds (particularly waterfowl) carry bird flu without symptoms, but they can still spread the virus to domestic birds. Once infected, birds such as chickens, ducks and turkeys may show one or many of these symptoms:
While rare, humans infected with bird flu have symptoms ranging from conjunctivitis (i.e. red eyes with discharge) to influenza-like illness (i.e. fever, sore throat, muscle aches) to severe respiratory illness and in very rare circumstances, death.
There are steps you can take to protect your pets, yourself and others from bird flu.
Novel influenza viruses are any type of influenza viruses that are newly discovered in Ontario’s mammals. For example, swine influenza viruses in pigs, equine influenza viruses in horses, and canine influenza in dogs.
Swine, equine and canine influenza viruses rarely infect humans, however occasionally they do. It is believed that the 2009-2010 pandemic influenza virus was the result of swine influenza transmission from pigs to humans. Transmission of novel influenza viruses from animals to humans usually occurs when an infected animal coughs or sneezes and aerosol droplets spread through the air and come in contact with humans.
There are several things you can do to protect yourself and others from novel influenza, including:
Echinococcus multilocularis is a small tapeworm found commonly in the northern hemisphere. To date, there have only been a few cases of E. multilocularis infections of dogs and cats detected in Ontario. Dogs (or animals such as foxes and coyotes) and rarely cats are the main hosts for the tapeworm.
Humans can be infected by E. multilocularis tapeworms, which can cause alveolar echinococcosis (AE). E. multilocularis infection of humans and animals occurs when there is contact with infective E. multilocularis tapeworm eggs found in the environment or from other animals. For example, transmission to humans mainly occurs through poor hygiene when handling feces, or ingesting microscopic E. multilocularis tapeworm eggs that may be stuck on an animal’s coat.
There are several things you can do to protect yourself and others from being infected with E. multilocularis, including:
There are also several things you can do to protect your dog from being infected with E. multilocularis, including: