What is zoonosis?

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What are some examples of infections you can get from farm and wild animals?

E. coli is a common infection that can cause a dangerous type of diarrhea. You can be infected by cattle on a farm or by sheep or goats in a petting zoo.

Other serious but less common infections include:

Q Fever.

This can cause flu-like illness, diarrhea, vomiting, and chest or stomach pain. It is dangerous for people with heart valve problems. You can be infected by manure or dust from areas where cattle, sheep, or goats live, or from unpasteurized milk.

Brucellosis infection.

This can cause serious long-term illness. It starts with flu-like symptoms. You can be infected by unpasteurized milk or cheese, or undercooked meat from an infected animal. Herd animals on the farm and in the wild can be infected. Hunters and animal handlers beware—you can also breathe in the bacteria when you handle infected meat, hides, or wool.

Hantavirus and lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV).

These can cause serious illness. LCMV is also dangerous for a pregnant woman's fetus. You can be infected by breathing in dust from rodent bedding or mouse urine and droppings, or from a mouse bite.


This is nearly always fatal if it's not treated before symptoms appear. You can be infected if you get scratched or bitten by an infected wild animal. Bats are the most common carriers of rabies.

How can animals make you sick?

When you spend time around an animal—whether it's a pet, a farm animal, or a wild animal—there's a chance you can pick up an infection. Some infections can seem mild, but others can be quite serious. So it's a good idea to learn about your risks and how to protect yourself and other people. People who are most in need of protection are children under age 5, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems.

An infection you get from an animal is called a zoonosis (say "zoh-uh-NOH-sus"). You can get a zoonosis from a mammal, a reptile, an amphibian, or a bird. It could be a pet, an animal at a farm or a petting zoo, or a wild animal that passes infection on to you.

Zoonosis may be caused by a bacteria, virus, or fungus, or by a parasite, such as a tapeworm.

It's not just touching an animal that can expose you to an infection. You can get infected when you:

  • Touch something that an animal has touched, such as bedding, a kennel, a stall, or your own clothing.
  • Touch feces or urine from an animal.
  • Are licked, scratched, or bitten by an animal.
  • Breathe in dust that carries disease from an animal, as in a barnyard or a mouse nest.
  • Handle animal meat. Kitchen and food prep areas can be contaminated by raw meat, such as chicken, beef, or game.
  • Drink water from canals, creeks, or lakes. They might be contaminated with animal waste.
  • Eat food from infected animals, such as raw milk, cheese, or meat, or eat produce grown in contaminated water.

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