October 25, 2014

Can Animals Make Us Sick? Yes.

Animal Health was the topic of a June 22 event on Capitol Hill called “From Fido to Food Safety: Roles, Responsibilities and Realities Veterinarians Face in Protecting Public Health,” that was hosted by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Animal Health Institute.

During his keynote address, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford, stated that zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans, have accounted for 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases among humans over the last three decades.

Zoonotic diseases include diseases that can be contracted from contact with live animals such as rabies or Lyme’s disease and from animals used as a food sources such as Salmonella and E.coli.

So far this year there has been: one Salmonella Sandiego outbreak linked to pet turtles that sickened 124 in 27 states;  two Salmonella outbreaks associated with contact from live chicks and ducks: a Salmonella Montevideo outbreak that has sickened 66 people in 20 states and a Salmonella Infantis outbreak that has sickened 123 in 25 states, and one Salmonella Infantis outbreak associated with tainted pet food. And every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans contract food poisoning from meat or poultry tainted with Salmonella or E.coli.

To improve the health and well being of animals and humans, the USDA has created a program called One Health which operates on the premise healthy livestock and pets lead to healthy people and sound environments.

“Veterinarians are the critical link to ensuring a safe food supply and effectively dealing with zoonotic diseases – diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans,” Alex Mathews, president and CEO of the Animal Health Institute, said in a statement.  “It is this vital link and the important role they play in maintaining animal health to protect human health that was the basis for Wednesday’s important discussion.”

To take a quiz about zoonotic diseases, visit the healthanimals.org website.

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