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Veterinary Public Health Program
313 N Figueroa St. Rm 1127
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel (213) 989-7060
Tel: (877) 747-2243
Fax (213) 481-2375
vet@ph.lacounty.gov
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The 2020 Healthy Pets, Healthy Families Initiative

Zoonotic diseases & parasite prevention

 

 Background:

 

Zoonotic diseases, or zoonoses, are diseases that can be transmitted between people and animals, including wildlife. This means that if an animal has the disease, it can sometimes infect humans. Depending on the disease, there are many ways zoonoses can be shared between animals and people, such as:

  • Contamination by animal's feces or urine

  • Bite of an infected animal

  • Breathing in droplets made when animals cough, sneeze or bark

  • Physical contact

  • Through an biting insect or arthropod (called a vector)

 

More than half of diseases known to infect human can come from animals1. The most famous zoonotic disease is rabies, but there are several other ones present in Los Angeles County (LAC), such as West Nile virus (WNV), leptospirosis, flea- or tick-transmitted infections (flea-borne typhus) and parasites commonly found in dogs and cats (hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, etc...).

 

(Check out our Animal Disease Information page for more information on specific zoonotic diseases).

 

Facts about zoonotic diseases in LAC:

 

  • Although not present in local dog or cats, rabies in LAC can sometimes be found in infected bats2

  • Both WNV and canine heartworm are transmitted by mosquitoes:

    • WNV is seen in LAC every year3 and can infect people, birds and horses

    • Heartworm is seen in some dogs and cats in our county4 but rarely infects people

  • Flea-borne typhus is expanding in our county5 and is transmitted by fleas from opossums or cats - Animals do not show symptoms, but people do

  • Intestinal parasites, such as roundworm, carried by pets can cause serious illness in people, especially children

  • Salmonella is commonly found in reptiles and can cause severe gastrointestinal disease in people

  • Human behavior can increase the risk of being infected by zoonotic diseases:

    • A quarter of pet owners in LAC say they never use flea/tick preventive for their pets6

    • More than half say that they leave food or water outside, which can attract wildlife7

What can people do to decrease chances of infection with zoonotic diseases in LAC:

  • Use proper hygiene habits - Wash your hands after touching animals, especially reptiles

  • Keep your pets up to date on their vaccines, even if they stay indoors - Dogs and cats can be attracted to dead or dying bats that could carry rabies

  • Talk to your veterinarian about deworming your pets on a regular basis

  • Do not leave food or water outside, because it can attract disease-carrying wildlife

  • Protect yourself against mosquitoes - This means emptying standing water twice weekly, wearing long-sleeves, especially at dusk and dawn and use screens on your windows

  • Make sure your pets are on flea/tick control - If fleas and ticks don't jump on your pets, they're less likely to get to you too

What Veterinary Public Health (VPH) and our partners do to fight zoonotic diseases in LAC:

 

One of our major focuses is to make sure we know which zoonoses are present in LAC by working closely with veterinary partners to increase reporting of these diseases to our offices. We also want to make sure that every pet and pet owner is protected against diseases transmitted by fleas or ticks, or other animal parasites by promoting the use of proper pet medications. Educational campaigns are also an important part of letting the public know, especially children, about what else they can do to reduce their chance of getting a zoonotic disease.

More useful information about zoonotic diseases:

Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC)

  

YouTube video - What's the Scoop on Poop? (American Veterinary Medical Association - AVMA)

  

YouTube video - Superbugs and your pet (AVMA)

  

YouTube video - Fleas and Ticks - Preventing External Parasites (AVMA)

 

Last updated: 10/28/2013

 
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