Zoonoses & Public Health
Centre Factors that Increase the Risk of a Zoonotic Disease
An animal centre is unlike virtually any other environment in which animals are maintained and poses unique challenges for the control of infectious disease in general and zoonotic diseases in particular.
- High Turnover. There is often a high degree of turnover of the population of animals in an animal centre, meaning that there is always a new group of animals at risk of contracting disease.
- Stress, poor nutrition, and presence of concurrent disease or parasitic infestation are common problems that increase the risk of transmission of infectious disease and the likelihood that infected animals will shed significant amounts of disease-causing agents into the environment.
- Older facilities are harder to sanitize. Many animal centres struggle to care for animals in older facilities that may be difficult to properly sanitize and may be characterized by poor ventilation, overcrowding, and uncomfortable temperature extremes, all of which contribute to the ready spread of infection.
- Difficulties in controlling infectious disease. In addition to the general difficulties of controlling infectious disease in a centre environment, certain factors common in sheltered animals specifically increases the risk of various zoonotic diseases. Animals frequently enter animal centres without a history of proper veterinary care or vaccination. Animals that have spent time outdoors and received minimal care are more likely to be infested with internal and external parasites. Some external parasites can be directly transmitted to humans (i.e. scabies, fleas), or they can serve as vectors for zoonotic disease such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted tick fever.
- Lack of PPE and poor cleaning and disinfecting practices. Proper PPE should always be practiced, even without known disease present, and proper cleaning and disinfecting protocols should be followed daily.
- Finally, animals entering animal centres are often frightened, disoriented, and of unknown temperament. Staff handling these animals are at increased risk of being bitten or scratched. Besides the injury and infection that can occur due to the wound itself, this can serve as a means of transmitting zoonotic diseases such as rabies and cat scratch fever.
Always Wear your PPE!