Zoonotic Diseases

 

For a quick reference sheet, click here

What is it?

Bartonellosis, usually called Cat-Scratch Disease (CSD) is a disease acquired by humans and associated with cats. The cause of cat-scratch disease was recently discovered to be a bacteria, Bartonella henselae. CSD had caused much confusion and controversy for many years because no one knew exactly what caused the disease or how to diagnose and treat it.

Which animals carry it?

As the name implies, the disease is most often associated with cats. Studies show that kittens younger than one year old are more likely to be associated with CSD than are older cats. Also, kittens with fleas are more likely to transmit CSD. Some experts believe that cats may be just one of several transmitters of the disease-causing organism. Research is still being conducted to determine which other animals may pose a zoonotic risk.

How do you get it?

Experts believe that B. henselae is transmitted to humans through cat scratches and bites. Animal centre workers who work closely with cats have an added risk and should disinfect and monitor any scratch or bite they get from a cat.

What are the symptoms in humans?

Initially, victims develop a small, pimple-like lesion at the site of the scratch or bite. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, and headache. In extreme cases, CSD-infected people can develop encephalitis while others suffer symptoms for years. Because the symptoms resemble signs of more serious illnesses such as cancer and tuberculosis, some patients have had to undergo a series of expensive tests before they were diagnosed with CSD. Researchers suspect that people may build up immunity against the disease.

What are the signs in animals?

Cats are asymptomatic (meaning they do not show symptoms) even when B. benselae is diagnosed in their blood.

How can centre workers avoid it?

  • Wear protective clothing (puncture-resistant gloves, for example) when handling frightened or aggressive cats.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap after scratches and bites.

How are humans with the disease treated?

In most cases, the disease isn't life threatening. Physicians treat patients who experience prolonged fevers, enlarged liver and spleen, and severe swelling of lymph nodes with antibiotics. People with severe cases of CSD, particularly those who are immunocompromised, may require hospitalization. Centre workers who suspect that they may have CSD should make sure their primary health care practitioner knows of their close work with animals.

For a quick reference sheet, click here

What is it?

Campylobacteriosis is a bacterial infection that affects the intestinal tract and sometimes the bloodstream. Although less well known than the widely publicized gastrointestinal disease salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis is actually more common. It infects between two and six million people a year in North America.

Which animals carry it?

Wild animals, especially birds, carry Campylobacter. Domestic animals including horses, pigs, chickens, cats, dogs and hamsters can also carry the infection.

How do you get it?

Most people typically contract the disease by consuming contaminated food or water, such as unpasteurized milk and uncooked poultry. Puppies and kittens with diarrhea can transmit Campylobacter, making the disease a particular risk to centre workers. Inadequate sanitation, disease control, and personal hygiene compound the risks.

What are the symptoms in humans?

Symptoms include abdominal pain, cramps, fever, chills and diarrhea (which are frequently bloody).

What are the signs in animals?

Signs include diarrhea (watery or bloody diarrhea in puppies and kittens) and loss of appetite. However, even healthy-looking animals may excrete the bacteria in their feces.

How can centre workers avoid it?

  • Wash hands frequently, especially after cleaning up after animals and before handling food, eating, or smoking.
  • Keep scratches, and other abrasions covered, especially while cleaning up after animals.
  • Wear gloves when there is a possibility of coming into contact with animal feces (especially those of puppies and cats).
  • Wear gloves when handling wild birds or other wild animals.

How are humans with the disease treated?

Most people with the disease will recover on their own, requiring only fluids to prevent dehydration associated with diarrhea. Antibiotics are often prescribed for people with severe cases or to prevent a recurrence of the symptoms. Centre workers who suspect they may have campylobacteriosis should make sure their primary health care practitioners know of their close work with animals.

For a quick reference sheet, click here

What is it?

There are many different types of coccidia. Cryptosporidiosis is a coccidian parasitic disease caused by Cryptosporidium parvum.

Which animals carry it?

All species of mammals can carry the disease, including companion animals. Farm animals are typically the most common carriers.

How do you get it?

People can get cryptosporidiosis in a variety of ways, including human-to-human contact, exposure to contaminated food or water and exposure to infected animals. Although contaminated drinking water poses the greatest risk to the general public, animal care workers have their own set of risks. Cleaning up animal feces, handling sick animals, or touching contaminated surfaces are prime examples. Inadequate sanitation, disease control, and personal hygiene compound these risks.

What are the symptoms in humans?

Common symptoms include watery diarrhea, headache, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. These symptoms may lead to weight loss and dehydration.

What are the signs in animals?

Diarrhea is a common symptom in animals, particularly young animals that have not developed immunity to the infection.

How can centre workers avoid it?

  • Wash hands frequently, especially after touching animals or cleaning up after them and before handling food, eating, or smoking.
  • Keep cuts, scratches, and other abrasions covered, especially while cleaning up after animals.
  • Wear gloves when there is a possibility of coming into contact with animal feces (especially those of puppies and kittens.

How are humans with the disease treated?

No drug will cure cryptosporidiosis. Many healthy people improve without taking antibiotics or antiparasitic medications. (Physicians may prescribe medication to slow the diarrhea during recovery.) People with the disease should drink plenty of fluids and get extra rest to combat diarrheal illness associated with the disease. Some immunocompromised people with cryptosporidiosis may have chronic diarrhea because the infection stays in the intestinal tract. Centre workers who suspect they may have cryptosporidiosis should make sure their primary health care practitioner knows of their close work with animals.

For more information on Coccidiosis, please visit the following links: http://www.maddiesfund.org/coccidia-in-a-shelter-setting.htm

  1. 1Pasteurella spp.
    • More commonly found infecting cat bite wounds than dog bite wounds.
    • Wound becomes very swollen, red and painful within 24 hours of bite (often within 3-6 hours).
    • Severe complications and systemic spread is possible if not treated; complications include cellulitis, arthritis and tendonitis. Septic shock is possible, especially in immunocompromised patients.
  2. 2Capnocytophaga canimorsus
    • More commonly found infecting dog bite wounds than cat bite wounds.
    • Signs of infection may not appear for 24 hours to several weeks post-bite.

Bite prevention/response:

  • Provide training to allow staff and volunteers to handle animals safely, and handling equipment such as muzzles, squeeze cages, pole syringes and control poles.
  • Ensure that animals are properly restrained and/or sedated for exams and procedures, and that adequate staff is available for this purpose.
  • All bites must be thoroughly washed with soap and water. Please seek medical attention.
  • All staff and volunteers should be aware of reporting procedures for a bite, and these should be clearly posted in appropriate location(s) for all to see.
  • Required quarantine procedures should be followed.
  • Ensure that the victim receives appropriate medical attention, including tetanus prophylaxis and rabies prophylaxis if indicated.

What is it?

Tiny organisms that feed on the skin of animals cause external parasitic infections. Mites, which are very minute arachnids that frequently infest animals and plants, can cause the zoonotic disease sarcoptic mange. Lice, which are small, wingless insects that feed off warm-blooded animals, can cause an infestation called pediculosis. Fleas, which are wingless, blood-sucking insects, can create an allergic reaction called flea allergy dermatitis in both animals and humans.

Which animals carry it?

All warm-blooded animals can carry mites, lice, and fleas.

How do you get it?

People can contract lice, mite, or flea-related infections by coming into close physical contact with infested animals and their infested bedding. The species of mite that causes sarcoptic mange can infect humans but will not likely reproduce on them. Likewise, fleas that live on animals or in the environment will bite people but not likely infest or reproduce on them.

What are the symptoms in humans?

The zoonotic mite disease sarcoptic mange can cause mild to severe skin infection and sometimes a secondary bacterial infection. Lice caused pediculosis can also cause mild to severe skin irritation, which may develop into a bacterial infection when people scratch. Flea allergy dermatitis can create skin irritation and lesions in some people.

What are the signs in animals?

Sarcoptic mange, which is caused by mites who infect the animal's skin, results in skin irritation (redness), inflammation, sores and hair loss. Fleas also can cause extreme allergic reactions in animals. (Note: Demodectic mange, while severe and often difficult to treat in animals, is not transmissible from animals to humans.)

How can centre workers avoid it?

Wash hands and exposed skin frequently, especially after touching animals or cleaning up after them and before handling food, eating or smoking.

  • Evaluate incoming animals for external parasites and treat the animals accordingly.
  • Rid not just the animal but also the animal's environment (such as bedding) of these parasites.
  • Groom animals regularly.

How are humans with the disease treated?

Sarcoptic mange, which is caused by mites who infect the animal's skin, results in skin irritation (redness), inflammation, sores and hair loss. Fleas also can cause extreme allergic reactions in animals. (Note: Demodectic mange, while severe and often difficult to treat in animals, is not transmissible from animals to humans.)

For a quick reference sheet, click here

What is it?

Giardia is a disease that affects the intestinal tract and liver. It is caused by a microscopic protozoan parasite called Giardia lamblia. In most cases, Giardia is not considered zoonotic. The most commonly recognized Giardia species in dogs, cats, and humans is Giardia lamblia. Giardia lamblia can be further differentiated into six genotypes via molecular methods. These genotypes are typically restricted to the species the organism affects, and thus are not zoonotic.

Which animals carry it?

Both wild and domestic animals carry the disease.

How do you get it?

People can get giardiasis in a variety of ways, including human-to-human contact, exposure to contaminated food or water, and exposure to infected animals. Although the greatest risk to the general public is consumption of contaminated drinking water or close contact with an infected human, animal care workers have their own set of risks. Cleaning up animal feces or touching surfaces contaminated by feces are prime examples. Inadequate sanitation, disease control, and personal hygiene compound these risks.

New evidence has shown that mechanical cleaning with a detergent is adequate

“Elbow grease” is key!

What are the symptoms in humans?

Although some people experience no symptoms, typical symptoms include mild or severe diarrhea, abdominal pain and occasional weight loss. Fever is rarely present.

What are the signs in animals?

Diarrhea, chronic weight loss, and pale, malodorous feces are some common clinical signs in domestic animals. However, even animals with no obvious symptoms can carry Giardia. Stress often brings out the symptoms of this disease and unfortunately is impossible to completely eradicate without incredibly aggressive treatment. Risk of reinfection is high, so the most important thing is to try to keep the cyst load down with routine disinfection, accepting that giardia will always be “around”. Concentration should be focused on treating the symptomatic cases only.

How can centre workers avoid it?

  • Prophyactically treating all animals on intake with five days of Panacur.
  • Wear proper PPE (gloves, gowns and impermeable shoe covers).
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after touching animals or cleaning up after them and before handling food, eating, or smoking.
  • Keep cuts, scratches and other abrasions covered, especially while cleaning up after animals.
  • Proper routine sanitation to keep the cyst load down.
  • Using an antibacterial wipe, wipe down any suspect cases to lower the cyst load.

How are humans with the disease treated?

Physicians generally prescribe antiparasitic drugs. Some individuals may recover on their own without medication. Centre workers who suspect they may have giardiasis should make sure their primary health care practitioner knows of their close work with animals.

For additional information, please click on the following link: http://www.maddiesfund.org/giardia-for-shelter-staff-and-volunteers.htm

For a quick reference sheet, Hookworm and Roundworm

What is it?

The infections of most concern to centre workers and pet owners are: Canine Roundworm disease (Visceral Larva Migrans, Toxocariasis), Hookworm disease (Cutaneous Larva Migrans, Ancylostomiasis, Creeping Eruption), Raccoon Roundworm disease (Helminth Disease, Baylisascaris procyonis). All of these diseases are caused by parasitic worm larvae that usually infest their hosts by hitching a ride in food sources or feces but sometimes by burrowing directly into the host's skin.

Which animals carry it?

Parasitic larvae can infest both wild and domestic animals. Animal centres and pet owners are more likely to contract worm-related infections from cats and dogs simply because they are near these animals more frequently.

How do you get it?

Centre workers typically acquire worm-related zoonotic diseases when they come into close contact with infested animals or somehow become infected by ingesting or touching infected feces or contaminated surfaces. Some people acquire infections when the larvae penetrate the skin.

What are the symptoms in humans?

The symptoms depend on what organs the larvae migrate to. Some worms can penetrate more than one region of the body.

  • Worms that invade the intestinal regions (such as hookworm and roundworm) can cause bloody stools, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice.
  • Worms that penetrate respiratory regions (such as canine roundworm and hookworm) can cause coughing, chest pain and sometimes asthma or pneumonia-like symptoms.
  • Worms that can penetrate the eye region (such as canine roundworm, raccoon roundworm, and occasionally hookworm) sometimes cause failing vision and other eye-related ailments.
  • Worms that can penetrate the brain (such as raccoon roundworm) can, in rare cases, cause lethargy, loss of muscle coordination, and potentially coma.
  • Worms that penetrate the skin cause irritation, blisters, rash, burning sensation and severe itching along the route of migration.

What are the signs in animals?

Common signs that an animal has one of these intestinal worms include pale gums, weight loss and diarrhea.

How can centre workers avoid it?

  • Prophylactically treat all animals on intake for hookworm and roundworm at minimum.
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after touching animals or cleaning up after them and before handling food and eating.
  • Keep cuts, scratches and other abrasions covered.
  • Keep cages and kennels clean and free of dirt.
  • Wear gloves when there is a possibility of coming into contact with animal feces (especially from young puppies).
  • Disinfect hands and exposed skin that may have come into contact with animal feces or surfaces contaminated with animal feces.
  • Wear protective clothing when handling wild animals, such as raccoons.
  • Because disinfectants cannot kill raccoon roundworm, designate one carrier or cage for containing raccoons only.

How are humans with the disease treated?

Physicians typically prescribe an anthelminthic drug for intestinal parasitic larvae infections. Inflammation-reducing drugs are often prescribed for symptoms of roundworm disease (toxocariosis). For external infections, the doctor may prescribe a medication to clear up the infection and to relieve itching. Centre workers who suspect they may have one of these infections should make sure their primary health care practitioner knows of their close work with animals.

For a quick reference sheet, click here

What is it?

Kennel Cough, or Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIDRC), is caused by a range of infectious agents. Bordetella bronchiseptica, a gram negative bacteria, is currently the one agent recognized to be zoonotic.

Which animals carry it?

Dogs and cats are the centre species most commonly infected.

How do you get it?

Direct contact, airborne spread or transmission on fomites. Bordetella is not considered to be a zoonotic risk to immunocompetent individuals. However, it may cause infection in immunosuppressed people or those suffering from pre-existing respiratory disease. Kennel cough associated with clinical bordetellosis is extremely common in sheltered dogs, so although transmission to humans is uncommon, shelter staff should be aware that certain groups are at risk.

What are the symptoms in humans?

Respiratory infection most common.

What are the signs in animals?

Usually causes harsh cough, with or without retching, without signs of systemic illness. Cases complicated by primary or secondary infection with other agents may present with cough, nasal or ocular discharge, and systemic signs such as fever and anorexia. May progress to pneumonia in severe cases.

How can centre workers avoid it?

Correct use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): gloves, gown, impermeable shoe covers. Dogs with kennel cough should receive appropriate treatment, and be isolated from the general population if facilities permit. Bordetella is not particularly durable, and routine disinfectants are adequate to destroy this bacterium. Immunosuppressed people or those with respiratory conditions should be advised not to work with or adopt dogs with current or recent kennel cough, since shedding may continue for several months after recovery.

How are humans with the disease treated?

Typically antibiotics would be used for treatment; centre workers should see their primary health care practitioner for an appropriate treatment plan.

For a quick reference sheet, click here

What is it?

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease produced by an organism that resides in the kidney called Leptospira spp.

Which animals carry it?

Many types of domestic and wild mammals, such as skunks, rabbits, raccoons and mice, carry and excrete the disease-causing bacteria. For animal control workers, the predominant risk is from dogs; cats are rarely infected.

How do you get it?

People can contract leptospirosis by accidentally consuming contaminated food, water or by coming into close contact with an infected animal's urine (or an animal carcass). Although the disease is relatively rare in humans, centre workers in close contact with animals puts them at higher risk (i.e. cleaning up urine-soaked newspapers in a puppy's cage).

What are the symptoms in humans?

Symptoms include prolonged fever, chills, weakness, abdominal and muscle pain, and sometimes jaundice and anemia. Fatality is low but the disease is especially dangerous for the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and people with kidney damage.

What are the signs in animals?

Diarrhea is a common symptom. Early signs include loss of appetite, vomiting, and fever. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include hypothermia, depression and muscle soreness.

How can centre workers avoid it?

Wash hands frequently, especially after touching animals or cleaning up after them and before handling food, eating or smoking.

Keep cuts, scratches and other abrasions covered, especially while cleaning up after animals.

Wear protective clothing and gloves when handling wild animals.

Wear gloves when there is a possibility of coming into contact with animal urine (especially dog urine).

How are humans with the disease treated?

People are often treated with antibiotics. In extreme cases, kidney dialysis may be necessary. Centre workers who suspect they may have leptospirosis should make sure their primary health care practitioner knows of their close work with animals.

For a quick reference sheet, click here

What is it?

Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease caused by a spirochete called Borrelia burgdorferi. It is different from other zoonotic diseases in that the parasite on the animal, not the animal himself, transmits Lyme disease.

Which animals carry it?

Mammals, including dogs, cats, white-tailed deer and other wild and domestic animals, serve as hosts to the disease-carrying tick.

How do you get it?

Humans get Lyme disease through a bite from a very small tick commonly referred to as a deer tick. To transmit the disease, the tick must be attached to the human for at least several hours. That's why it is so important to remove ticks from skin immediately.

What are the symptoms in humans?

The first symptom is normally an expanding circular (or "bull's-eye") rash appearing at the site of the bite between 2-30 days after the bite occurs. Flu-like symptoms (headaches, nausea, fever, muscle aches) may also appear. Left untreated, the disease may cause complications in the heart and nervous system (second stage) including "heart block", meningitis and facial palsy. Arthritis, swelling and joint pain may be recurring effects of untreated Lyme disease.

What are the signs in animals?

Symptoms in animals include fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, sudden or severe lameness and joint swelling.

How can centre workers avoid it?

  • Inspect animals coming into the centre for ticks.
  • Use tweezers and wear gloves to remove ticks, taking care not to squeeze or puncture the body of the tick, which may contain infectious fluids.
  • Wear clothing that covers your skin: long-sleeved shirts, pants, etc.
  • If exposed to tick-infested areas (such as during field work), check your body and clothing after coming inside. Then shower and wash your clothes soon after the work day.

How are humans with the disease treated?

If diagnosed early, the disease can be treated effectively with antibiotics.

For a quick reference sheet, click here

What is it?

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by an RNA virus. This virus attacks the central nervous system of mammals. With rare exception, rabies is always fatal. Only three humans are known to have survived the disease.

Which animals carry it?

Any warm-blooded mammal can get rabies. However, some animals, such as skunks, coyotes, raccoons and bats, are more susceptible to the virus than others. Cats and dogs, while less susceptible to rabies than many animals, are more likely to transmit the virus from wild animals to humans. Animals rarely afflicted with rabies include rabbits, rats, squirrels, opossums and even humans. Because rabies infects mammals only, amphibians, reptiles and fish can't get the disease.

How do you get it?

The virus, which is present in the salivary glands of infected animals, is usually transmitted through a bite or a break in the skin (such as a scratch or cut). It can be transmitted through mucous membranes, but this is less likely. Because the virus shows up only intermittently in saliva, exposure from a rabid animal does not necessarily mean the virus was transmitted. Aerosol transmission of rabies in heavily infested bat caves and laboratory settings has also been documented, but this mode poses little risk to the general public.

What are the symptoms in humans?

The first rabies symptoms in humans mimic the flu (weakness, fatigue, lack of appetite, headache, fever), which is why diagnosing rabies is difficult. Many victims also report tingling at the exposure site. Symptoms progress to hyperactivity, disorientation, hallucinations and convulsions. The disease slowly and painfully paralyzes its victims. At the final stage, they typically lapse into a coma and die from respiratory arrest.

What are the signs in animals?

Although it's not always possible to determine whether an animal has rabies just by looking at him, some symptoms strongly indicate rabies. The stereotypical "foaming at the mouth" isn't necessarily the strongest indicator that an animal has rabies. The first visible sign of rabies is a change in behaviour, ranging from depression or disorientation to aggression and violence. Several other animal diseases, such as distemper and toxoplasmosis, may mimic rabies, and this further complicates the diagnosis.

How can centre workers avoid it?

  • Make sure you're current on your rabies pre-exposure and tetanus vaccinations.
  • Use protective equipment and clothing.
  • Report all scratches and bites immediately to supervisors.
  • Immediately wash all wounds with soap and water for ten full minutes.
  • If exposed to the rabies virus, get post-exposure treatment immediately.
  • Follow recommended rabies quarantine, monitoring and reporting.

How are humans with the disease treated?

The disease is fatal and cannot be treated. Prevention is the only way to avoid the disease.

For a quick reference sheet, click here

What is it?

Ringworm (Dermatophytosis) is a fungal skin infection caused by Microsporum caninum (most common species), and Trichophyton mentagrophytes

Which animals carry it?

Cats and dogs, more commonly seen in young animals, long haired cats and dogs, and cats and dogs from hoarding situations.

How do you get it?

Direct contact, contaminated environment or contact with fomites whereby spores come in contact with broken skin/wounds.

What are the symptoms in humans?

Ring-shaped areas of scaling and hair loss, with or without redness, crusting and itching.

What are the signs in animals?

Most common signs include circular areas of hair loss and scaling. Most common location is face, ears, feet and tail. Wide range of presentations possible, including hair loss with or without crusting, nail bed infection, infection that mimics "stud tail" and feline acne and generalized infection. Asymptomatic carriage of ringworm spores is possible.

How can centre workers avoid it?

Prevention requires the following three strategies:

  • Recognition: Ringworm is extremely persistent in the environment and is not destroyed by any disinfectant at concentrations routinely used in shelters. The best prevention is early recognition to limit environmental contamination. All animals should be carefully examined at intake, and examined by a Woods lamp as part of the arrivals process. Suspected lesions should be cultured, and animals treated as positive until culture results are available. Definitive diagnosis requires fungal culture and microscopic identification. Woods lamp detects about 80% of Microsporum cases; can be used for screening procedure but can't be relied on for diagnosis. Direct microscopic examination of hairs likewise can be used to make a positive diagnosis, but often fails to detect the presence of ringworm.
  • Care in the shelter: Positive or suspect animals should be isolated and handled with protective clothing. Toys and blankets should be reserved for the affected animal and discarded after use. Contaminated surfaces and implements should first be “swiffered” to pick up any spores and then cleaned with bleach diluted to 1:20. Contaminated cages should be allowed to sit open for 24 hours and cleaned again with bleach prior to reuse. All treatments (such as clipping and dipping [with lime sulfur] should be performed in an easy-to- clean area, separate from areas where other medical procedures are performed and from where sick animals are housed. Clippers used for affected animals should be reserved for that purpose. If animals are housed and treated in the centre or in foster homes, clipping and topical therapy in addition to the oral treatment is indicated to reduce environmental contamination. A “wipe down” of the animal with an antibacterial wipe will also help reduce the risk of carrying any spores around on its fur.
  • Decontamination of environment: Environmental decontamination is essential to prevent recurrence of the disease. Think of it like a bag of “skittles” – when they are dropped, they will just sit there in the environment and will not reproduce (mold). Unless the spores get picked up and enter a break in the skin (wound/scratch), they will not infect its host (human or animal). Without aggressive cleaning, spores may persist and remain infectious for years. All surfaces, vents, heating ducts, etc. must be “swiffered” and cleaned, using bleach diluted at 1:20 when possible.

How are humans with the disease treated?

In most cases, ringworm can be treated with topical antifungal cream. Antifungal tablets may be required. Anyone having suspicious lesions should consult with their primary health care practitioner for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan.

For more information on Ringworm, please click on the following links:

Maddie's Fund Webinar: "How Animal Shelters are beating Ringworm"
ASPCA's webinar: "Ringworm 101 for Shelters"
ASPCA's Webinar: "Beating Ringworm, Yes You Can!"
ASPCA's Webinar: "Ringworm Outbreak Management"

For a quick reference sheet, click here

What is it?

Salmonellosis is a disease caused by the bacteria species Salmonella. It is one of the most common zoonotic diseases in humans, affecting between two and six million people every year in the United States.

Which animals carry it?

Birds and reptiles (especially iguanas) are the animals most frequently associated with Salmonella. The disease is so common in turtles that laws have been passed to ban their interstate shipment and sale. Wild and domestic animals, including dogs and cats, occasionally carry the disease.

How do you get it?

Most people typically contract the disease by consuming food or water contaminated with the bacteria Salmonella. The animal centre exposes its workers to a greater risk of direct exposure from infected animals because it cares for the very animals most susceptible to the disease – those who are diseased, stressed or live in overcrowded conditions.

What are the symptoms in humans?

Symptoms include diarrhea (usually watery and occasionally bloody), nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and abdominal cramps. If the bacteria leaves the bloodstream and enters the central nervous system, meningitis/encephalitis may develop. Salmonellosis is a very serious disease in humans, especially for young children and people with compromised immune systems.

What are the signs in animals?

Diarrhea and vomiting are the most likely signs that an animal may have salmonellosis.

How can centre workers avoid it?

  • Wash hands frequently, especially after touching animals or cleaning up after them and before handling food, eating or smoking.
  • Keep cuts, scratches, and other abrasions covered, especially while cleaning up after animals.
  • Wear latex gloves when handling birds and reptiles.
  • Disinfect hands and exposed skin that may have come into contact with animal feces or surfaces contaminated with animal feces.

How are humans with the disease treated?

Most people are treated with fluid replacement therapy. Treatment for severe cases varies depending on the symptoms; in extreme cases, hospitalization is required. Centre workers who suspect they may have salmonellosis should make sure their primary health care practitioner knows of their close work with animals.

For a quick reference sheet, click here

What is it?

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease caused by a protozoan called Toxoplasma gondii. The organism resides in the intestinal tract of cats and in the tissues of many food animals and rodents.

Which animals carry it?

Although cats are the only animals that can shed the parasite's eggs (oocysts) in their feces, T. gondii also will reside in animal’s tissues and is released when other animals or humans consume that tissue.

How do you get it?

People usually get toxoplasmosis by eating raw or undercooked meat of an animal whose tissue contained the disease-causing organism. People can also get the disease if they ingest food and water contaminated with cat feces.

What are the symptoms in humans?

Most cases of clinical disease resemble the flu; symptoms include fever, enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue, headache and sore throat. However, although many people are infected with T. gondii, most healthy people develop minimal or no symptoms. People likely to develop clinical symptoms are children and people with compromised immune systems. Pregnant women who become infected with toxoplasmosis risk infecting their fetus, which can result in stillbirths, spontaneous abortions and birth defects. Once inside the body, the parasite never leaves it. Although in healthy people the parasite remains inactive, it can "reactivate" in immunocompromised people.

What are the signs in animals?

It's difficult to tell that animals have toxoplasmosis just by looking at them. When symptoms are apparent, they usually include vague signs like diarrhea, weight loss and fever.

How can centre workers avoid it?

  • Wash hands frequently, especially after cleaning up after cats and before handling food, eating, or smoking.
  • Keep cuts, scratches, and other abrasions covered, especially while cleaning up after cats.
  • If you are pregnant or immunocompromised, try to have someone else clean litter boxes. If you must do this task, make sure you wear gloves and disinfect hands afterward.
  • Disinfect hands and exposed skin that may have come into contact with cat feces or surfaces contaminated with cat feces.
  • If feces are removed from the environment promptly (<24hrs), risk of infection is low. Eggs need ~36hrs to become activated.

How are humans with the disease treated?

Most people require no treatment. People showing symptoms of toxoplasmosis are generally treated with antibiotics. Treatment for pregnant women is more complex. Centre workers who suspect they may have toxoplasmosis should make sure their primary health care practitioner knows of their close work with animals.

Despite the risks, serious outbreaks of zoonotic disease in shelters remain infrequent. Good general husbandry and infectious disease control go a long way towards reducing the risk of human infection.

For more information on Toxoplasmosis, please click on the following links:

Maddie's Fund Video - Toxoplasmosis: Truth, Fiction, and Crazy Cat Ladies?

For a quick reference sheet, click here

What is it?

A zoonotic disease of birds caused by the intracellular bacterium Chlamydophoila psittaci. Particularly common among psittacine bird and pigeons, but most or all species of birds are susceptible. Carried often asymptomatically, causing mild to severe illness after having been stressed.

Which animals carry it?

Wild and domestic birds, as well as poultry.

How do you get it?

Humans can become infected with Chlamydia psittaci by breathing in the organism when the urine, respiratory secretion or dried feces of infected birds is aerosolized (i.e. dispersed in the air as very fine droplets or dust particles). Other sources of exposure include mouth-to-beak contact, a bite from an infected bird and handling the plumage and tissues of infected birds. Human-human transmission is rare.

What are the symptoms in humans?

Can cause symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, weakness or fatigue, muscle and chest pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, sweating or abnormal intolerance to light

What are the signs in animals?

Many infected birds remain asymptomatic until they become stressed. Stress associated with nutritional deficiencies, overcrowding, breeding, egg-laying and prolonged transport may cause birds with a latent infection to shed infectious agents. When shedding occurs, the infected birds excrete the bacteria in the feces and nasal discharges and the bacteria can remain infective for several months. May exhibit the following signs if symptomatic: sleepiness, shivering, weight loss, breathing difficulties and diarrhea.

How can centre workers avoid it?

  • Examine new birds for signs of illness.
  • Routine disinfection.
  • Frequent hand washing after handling birds.
  • Birds should be kept in a well-ventilated area to prevent the accumulation of infectious dust.
  • Cages should be cleaned regularly to prevent the buildup of wastes.
  • Proper PPE (gown, gloves and mask) while handling or cleaning.

How are humans with the disease treated?

Antibiotics combined with supportive care are effective. It could be fatal if left untreated.

What Can We Do?

Here are some simple steps you can take to protect your environment, animals and people—and ultimately, our shelter’s reputation.


Protect your Environment:

  • Make sure all areas of the centre are carefully cleaned daily or more often. If possible, repair or replace materials that are impossible to effectively clean.
  • Use a broad-spectrum disinfectant and take special precautions when cleaning up after ringworm and other resistant agents.
  • Check or treat animals for resistant agents such as roundworm, hookworm and ringworm before allowing in common areas.
  • Pick feces up daily or more often (some germs aren’t infectious right away, but will be if feces are allowed to sit).
  • Immediately isolate animals showing signs of infectious disease, even if a known zoonosis is not identified.

Protect Your Animals:

  • Deworm all animals.
  • Perform diagnostics and treat appropriately for other zoonotic infections not covered by routine deworming.
  • Use effective flea and tick control for all animals.
  • If treating animals, use antibiotics only when clearly indicated.
  • Vaccinate all animals at intake with core centre vaccines (FVRCP, DA2PP, Bordetella [dogs]).

Protect your Environment:

  • Provide verbal and written information about zoonotic disease to adopters, volunteers, foster families and staff.
  • Designate non-animal areas for human food preparation and eating.
  • Provide hand washing stations, gloves and hand sanitizer for use before, between and after handling animals. (Hand sanitizer is the least effective choice, but is better than nothing.)