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NC Division of Public Health
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Diseases & Topics

Zoonotic (Animal-Borne) Diseases

Diseases that can spread from vertebrate animals to people are called "zoonotic" diseases. Rabies is one well-known example but people can also catch skin, respiratory, intestinal and other diseases from animals. Some of these diseases can be serious and even fatal. Approximately 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases that affect humans are diseases of animal origin.

Many common illnesses which are associated with food-borne transmission or transmission by ticks, mosquitoes and fleas (vector-borne) are zoonotic in origin. Though frequently food- or water-borne, E. coli O157:H7, campylobacterosis, salmonellosis and cryptosporidiosis also can be passed to humans through direct contact with animals or other environments.

In recent years, intestinal disease associated with places where the public has contact with farm animals — such as petting zoos, state or county fairs, and educational farms — has been identified with increasing frequency in states across the nation, including North Carolina.

Zoonotic diseases that are of particular interest in North Carolina include:

Other zoonotic diseases that are reportable in North Carolina include monkeypox, plague and viral hemorrhagic fevers.

Prevention of zoonotic diseases depends largely on each individual disease and the way it is transmitted to people.

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