From the Horse's Mouth: Zoonotic Disease in Equine Practice

Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. All of these can infect and cause disease in animals--which is especially noteworthy when you consider that more than 70% of infectious diseases of domestic animals and wildlife can also infect humans.

Rabid horse

A rabid horse is sedated heavily and secured. Read more about equine rabies.

Luckily, remarkably few diseases can be spread from horses to humans. But, as described by Peter Timoney, MVB, PhD, FRCVS, from the Gluck Equine Research Center in Kentucky at the 10th International Congress of World Equine Veterinary Association, there are some notable exceptions.

According to the Office of Epizootic Diseases, Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan encephalomyelitis, glanders, and acute equine respiratory syndrome (caused by Hendra virus) are each associated with severe and potentially fatal disease in humans.

Other zoonotic diseases of concern are:

  • Rabies;
  • Salmonellosis;
  • West Nile virus encephalitis;
  • Japanese encephalitis;
  • Anthrax;
  • Leptospirosis;
  • Vesicular stomatitis;
  • Brucellosis, and;
  • Q fever.

Timoney emphasized the need for a continued co-operative effort between the human and veterinary medical sectors to maximize the prevention and control of these (and other) diseases.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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