Zoonoses (overview) A20-28

Author: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer

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Last updated on: 18.12.2020

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All diseases and/or all infections that can be transmitted naturally between animals and humans (from animal to human = zooanthroponosis and from human to animal = anthropozoonosis).

About 200 diseases are known.

A zoonosis is therefore an infectious disease that can affect both humans and animals.

Excluded are pathogens that occur in the environment and reach humans via contamination of food.

In the "direct (ortho-) zoonosis", infection occurs through direct contact or through a mechanical vector from one vertebrate to another (e.g. scabies transmission from human to human).

Epizoonoses are skin parasitoses caused by arthropods, e.g. diseases caused by lice, mites, ticks, etc.

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The actual zoonotic agents are pathogens that are not restricted to one host but can cause infection (with or without clinically manifest disease) in several hosts, including humans.

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The incidence and prevalence of most zoonoses is difficult to estimate. Many zoonoses remain undiagnosed. For most zoonoses there is still no obligation to notify. In general, the more frequent and the more direct contact with animals, the greater the chance of contracting a zoonosis (e.g. in certain professions such as veterinarians or farmers).

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Zoonotic agents are bacteria, viruses, parasites or other biological entities that can cause a zoonosis.

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Anyone who comes into contact with animals or their products can be exposed to infection. In principle, infections from animals to humans are avoided by the same methods as for interpersonal infections. In animal husbandry, hygiene (clean stables and enclosures, cleaning of hands, disinfection (such as cooking and ironing) of textiles) is the most important measure.

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Zoonoses pose a constant risk to humans. In addition to live animals, food in particular can be a carrier of zoonotic agents. Zoonotic agents that have already been successfully controlled in Europe can be reintroduced at any time (such as brucellosis). There is a risk of new zoonoses occurring due to the global spread of zoonotic agents that were originally restricted to certain regions. There are many causes for the re-emergence and re-emergence of zoonoses:
  • Worldwide tourism and animal trade
  • Human penetration into new geographical and ecological areas
  • Introduction and distribution of exotic and other animal species to the human population
  • Changes in animal husbandry and animal feeding
  • changes in consumption habits and the production or preparation of food
  • Hygiene conditions with close contact between humans and animals
  • Genetic modification of pathogens.


Please ask your physician for a reliable diagnosis. This website is only meant as a reference.


Last updated on: 18.12.2020