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Infectious Diseases

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Zoonotic Diseases

Zoonotic diseases are illnesses that can be passed between animals and people. Animals offer companionship and entertainment for many people. Interaction with pets and observing wildlife in the outdoor environment or at a petting zoo can be beneficial, but some animals carry illnesses that can spread to people. Zoonotic diseases can spread through direct and indirect contact with animals. However, you can protect your health from zoonotic diseases. To help you and your family's health, we track and follow up on reports of the zoonotic diseases such as Rabies, Avian Chlamydiosis, Novel Influenza, and Echinococcus Multilocularis.

If you have a pet that may have a zoonotic disease, follow up with your pet's veterinarian for assessment and information. Veterinarians are required by law to report animals with the zoonotic diseases listed below to us so we can follow up with people that had contact with these animals.

If you or a family member had contact with an animal diagnosed by a veterinarian with a zoonotic illness, follow up with your health care provider.

Avian chlamydiosis (or avian psittacosis) is a zoonotic disease of birds caused by the bacterium Chlamydophila psittaci. Most birds are able to spread this illness, but the most common birds that can pass this disease include parrot-type birds, especially cockatiels and budgerigars (commonly called parakeets or budgies). This bacteria can also occur in poultry, pigeons, doves, canaries, and finches.

This illness can spread between birds through breathing in infectious dust or airborne particles (such as feathers) or ingestion of material infected with the bacteria. Large quantities of this bacteria can be found in feces and can spread in the air when feces is dry.

Birds can transmit avian chlamydiosis to people causing human psittacosis. The spread of this illness to people occurs when a person breathes in dust or other dried secretions from birds. Illnesses caused by C. psittaci can result in pneumonia and other health problems in people.

Avian influenza is a zoonotic disease that can affect all birds. There are at least 15 types of avian influenza that are caused by various types of influenza A viruses. Influenza A viruses are common in wild aquatic birds. Although this virus circulates among birds, they can occasionally infect other species.

Birds transmit avian influenza to one another through secretions and droppings. Once the virus is introduced into a flock of birds, it can be spread between birds.

Most avian influenza viruses do not cause disease in people. However, there are two viruses that cause illness. People can become exposed through infected poultry or contaminated environments.

Echinococcus multilocularis is a small tapeworm found commonly in the northern hemisphere. These illnesses are rare in pets, but there have been a few documented cases of dogs and cats in North America.

This illness primarily impacts dogs, foxes, and coyotes. Some rodents and cats can also be infected with this tapeworm. When an animal comes into contact with the eggs of this worm found in the environment or from other animals, they can become sick.

Humans can also become infected by ingesting water or food contaminated with the eggs of this worm.

Novel influenza is similar to avian influenza. It is any influenza virus that is newly circulating in our animal species. Similar to influenza A viruses in birds, there are influenza A viruses specific to animals. Some flu viruses specific to animals include: swine influenza virus in pigs, equine influenza virus in horses, and canine influenza in dogs.

These viruses usually spread between animals of the same species. Transmission between animal species can occur, but it is rare. These illnesses can spread by direct contact or when droplets of an infected animal's cough or sneeze spread through the air and make contact with other nearby animals.

Swine, equine, and canine influenza viruses rarely pass to people. Transmission of novel influenza viruses from animals to humans usually occurs when droplets from an infected animal's cough or sneeze spread through the air and make contact with people near the ill animal.

If an animal has a reportable zoonotic disease, you are required to notify us. Under Regulation 557 - Communicable Diseases, made under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, veterinarians are legally obligated to report a suspect or confirmed case of a reportable zoonotic disease to their local Medical Officer of Health.

If you are a veterinarian practicing in Simcoe or Muskoka, report animals with avian chlamydiosis, avian influenza, novel influenza, and/or Ehinococcus multilocularis infections to us by calling and faxing in a report:

  • Phone: 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520
  • Fax: 705-725-8132, Report Form

Accurate and complete reporting of reportable zoonotic diseases to us is important so we can:

  • detect outbreaks;
  • initiate timely follow-up to help limit and prevent spread of illness;
  • facilitate appropriate public health interventions and educational efforts;
  • target prevention programs, identify specific populations at risk, and apply effective resources;
  • evaluate control efforts;
  • assess and evaluate epidemiological research; and
  • contribute to provincial, national, and international surveillance efforts.
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