Zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases that have jumped from an animal (non-human) to humans. Each week, this page is updated with the latest zoonotic news and articles from around the world, including COVID-19. Please send all comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pat Fricano is a One Health Collaborator that organizes and compiles a weekly list of zoonotic disease updates. He has in excess of 30 combined years of work experience in environmental protection and environmental public health between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Health. In his current capacity as the Zoonotic Diseases Coordinator at the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, he tracks mosquito borne and other vector borne diseases.
WNV Found in Record Number of Utah Mosquito Pools – 8/2/2021
Utah health officials said Wednesday a northern Utah resident died recently from the West Nile virus, marking the state's first fatal case of the virus this year. In all, 11 people, nine horses and seven birds in Utah have been infected with West Nile virus this year, and the number of virus-positive mosquito pools in the state is at an all-time high, according to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. Vaccines for West Nile virus and other neurologic diseases in horses are readily available, and horse owners should discuss vaccination with their veterinarian every spring, says Utah State Veterinarian Dean Taylor.
NE Spain: Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever Virus Hotspot in Wildlife – 9/2021
A sero-survey was conducted for Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus antibodies in various wildlife species in Catalonia, northeastern Spain. We detected high seroprevalence in southern Catalonia, close to the Ebro Delta wetland, a key stopover for birds migrating from Africa. Our findings could indicate that competent virus vectors are present in the region. Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) is an arthropod borne orthonairovirus, mainly transmitted by ticks. In humans, CCHFV infection can cause severe and even fatal Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) disease. CCHFV also can infect wild and domestic mammalian species, producing viremia but causing a predominantly asymptomatic disease and such species have a role in the maintenance of the virus in the environment.
Brazil Agriculture Ministry Investigating Suspected Case of Mad Cow Disease – 9/1/2021
Brazil's agriculture ministry said on Wednesday it was investigating a suspected case of mad cow disease in the country, according to a statement. An industry source told Reuters, on condition of anonymity, that the suspected case occurred in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais. The ministry said such investigations are commonplace and pledged to announce its findings as soon as the ongoing probe is concluded. This is the first potential case since May 2019, when Brazil's government reported the occurrence of an "atypical" mad cow disease case in an animal in Mato Grosso state. At that time, the ministry said mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), had been detected in a 17-year-old cow, adding that no parts of that animal had entered the food chain. The source said evidence suggested the current case was also atypical, as it appeared to have been detected in an older cow like in 2019.
Veterinarian Stops Selling Ivermectin to Non-Clients – 9/1/2021
Veterinarian Adrian Walton has stopped selling ivermectin to anyone who is not an established client as misinformation about the veterinary antiparasitic's use for COVID-19 drives a spike in demand. "This stuff is formulated for animals. It is not formulated for people. It's not tested on people. Nobody should be taking any drug meant for animals for personal use," Dr. Walton said.
USDA Animal Disease Protection Zone in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands – 9/2/2021
The USDA is planning to establish a protection zone in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to prevent African swine fever virus from spreading to the US from the Dominican Republic, where it was recently detected. The USDA may restrict movement of pork products from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to the mainland as part of the agency's mitigation effort, says USDA Chief Veterinary Officer Rosemary Sifford.
Pennsylvania Sees Uptick in Tick-Borne Diseases – 9/7/2021
More than twice as many black-legged tick nymphs have been collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection this summer compared with last year, and health care providers throughout the state say they have seen more cases of Lyme disease and anaplasmosis than usual. Pets are also susceptible to tick-borne diseases, and veterinary technician Josh Nearhoof recommends checking pets for ticks after they've been outdoors and using a veterinarian-recommended tick preventive year-round.
Mystery Fever in India Identified as Two Separate Pathogens – 9/7/2021
India's health authorities have solved the mystery of an illness that has infected thousands and left more than 100 people dead in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. The fever that confounded experts for two weeks has been identified as two separate diseases, one caused by bacteria and the other a virus. The cases have been identified as infections with scrub typhus and dengue. Combined, they have killed more than 100 people and infected thousands in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state in just a couple weeks. At least 40 of the victims have been children. Officials in Uttar Pradesh are reporting approximately 100 new cases of both fevers every day.
Scrub typhus is a bacterial fever spread through bites from chiggers, or larval mites, found in bushes. Symptoms include fever, headache and body aches, which later progress to rashes and inflammation of the nervous system which can cause confusion and even coma. Dengue is a viral infection that spreads through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Patients often suffer from fever, muscle and joint pain. In severe cases, as has been seen in recent outbreaks in India, the blood platelet count of the patient drops significantly, leading to internal bleeding and possible death. There have been no statistical breakdowns from regional authorities on how many cases are believed to be scrub typhus and how many are dengue.
Uttar Pradesh authorities first reported cases of a mystery fever in the Firozabad district on August 18. As of Tuesday, the district was still the worst hit, with 51 deaths including the 40 children. The diseases have spread to at least five other districts in the state, including Agra, where the iconic Taj Mahal draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. State health officials were going door-to-door to raise awareness of the most recent threat to public health in a bid to stem the spread.
India grapples with dengue outbreaks almost every year, typically in the rainy monsoon season when the Aedes aegypti mosquitos that carry the virus breed in and around homes in accumulated fresh water. Tens of thousands of cases and dozens of deaths are reported most years, and Uttar Pradesh, with its 200 million inhabitants, is often hard-hit. Millions of people live below the poverty line in the state, with poor standards of sanitation and health care contributing to the spread of the disease.
Nipah Virus Kills Child, Sickens Others in India – 9/7/2021
A 12-year-old boy in Kerala, India, died Sunday of Nipah virus, a zoonotic disease carried by bats that can be transmitted from person to person, and dogs, cats, goats, pigs, horses and sheep are also susceptible. Health authorities have identified 188 people who had contact with the boy, 20 of whom are primary contacts and are either hospitalized with symptoms or in quarantine. Like the coronavirus, Nipah is a zoonotic virus, or one that is transmitted from animals to humans. Transmission generally occurs when humans either come into direct contact with the animals, or through consumption of contaminated food. But a high number of human-to-human transmission cases of Nipah have also been reported. Fruit bats of the family Pteropodidae — commonly known as the "flying fox" are the natural carriers of Nipah. They are known to transmit the virus to other animals including pigs, dogs, cats, goats, horses and sheep.
An infected human typically shows symptoms including fever and headache for anywhere between three days and two weeks, followed by a cough, sore throat and respiratory issues. The condition later progresses swiftly to swelling in the brain cells, leading to drowsiness, confusion, and then possible coma and death. There is no cure or vaccine for Nipah yet, and patients are only given supportive medical care. According to the World Health Organization, up to 75% of Nipah infections prove fatal. The mortality rate for the coronavirus, by comparison, is believed to be about 2%. About 20% of survivors experience neurological symptoms that can persist, including seizures and personality changes.
Minnesota: St. Louis County Board Considers Ban on Deer Farms – 9/8/2021
The St. Louis County, Minnesota Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to hold a public hearing on a proposed moratorium on captive cervid farms and asked the Legislature to consider a statewide ban. Chronic wasting disease is easily transmitted in places where deer, elk and other cervids congregate and can persist in soil, potentially infecting other cervids.
Anthrax Outbreak Kills Dozens of Cattle in Spain – 9/8/2021
The Veterinary Health Alert Network (Rasve) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA) has reported an outbreak of anthrax in a bovine farm in Ciudad Real. According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), 25 animals died from the disease. They also report the outbreak has originated in an area of pasture usually covered by the Guadiana River, which has been exposed by the drop in flow. All surviving animals have been removed from the area and vaccinated with the Antravax vaccine. At the moment, as a result of this outbreak, there have been no cases in humans.
According to a release earlier this week, the Ministry of Health and Wellness in St Vincent and the Grenadines reports, “on review of sequencing results for samples sent from St Vincent and the Grenadines to the COVID-19 IMPACT Project Lab through the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), five cases of the Mu variant were detected between July 19 and August 9, 2021.”
The detection of the Mu variant in St. Vincent has caught the eye of other Caribbean countries. In Jamaica, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says the Ministry is keeping close tabs on the new Mu variant of the coronavirus (COVID-19). “Now that we know that there is the Mu variant in the Caribbean and it is one of concern, then we will pay particular attention to ensuring that we not only test for Delta and the others but we test for this particular one as well,” Dr. Tufton outlined. The World Health Organization (WHO) on August 30, 2021, named the variant B.1.621 – Mu, a variant of interest.
Arizona Reports Significant Increase in West Nile Virus, First Death – 9/9/2021
Health officials in Maricopa County in south-central Arizona are reporting a significant increase in West Nile virus (WNV) cases so far in 2021. Maricopa County is the home to the city of Phoenix. To date, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health has reported 36 human WNV cases, including one fatality. This compares to three human cases and one death in 2020. Health officials say the death was in a older adult who also had other health conditions.
With all the news surrounding the death of an Indian child from the Nipah virus earlier this week in Kerala State, the Bangladesh Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) just updated their Nipah case count for 2021. According to their data, two Nipah virus cases have been reported in Bangladesh this year, down from six in 2020. No deaths were recorded, and no details were released about the patients, the dates or their location. This brings Bangladesh’s Nipah totals since 2001 to 321 cases and 225 deaths, accounting for a 70 percent fatality rate.
Nipah virus is one of the pathogens in the World Health Organization R&D Blueprint list of epidemic threats needing urgent R&D action. Nipah virus was first identified during an outbreak of disease that took place in Malaysia in 1998. Both animal-to-human and human-to-human transmission have been documented. Well more than 600 cases of Nipah virus human infections have been reported since the Malaysia outbreak. Subsequent outbreaks in India and Bangladesh have occurred with high case fatality.
February 2020: First dog tests positive in Hong Kong. Pomeranian, 17-year-old, owner diagnosed with COVID-19, PCR positive followed by antibody positive status. Dog later died of causes likely related to age and other known health issues, NOT COVID-191.
March 2020: A 2-year-old German shepherd in Hong Kong is PCR positive after the owner was diagnosed with COVID-192.
April 2020: False PCR positive in a pug in North Carolina, antibody negative, family was COVID-19 positive3.
May 2020: An 8-year-old American bulldog from the Netherlands was antibody positive and owner had COVID-19. The dog was euthanized due to worsening breathing problems, but it is unknown if the breathing issues were caused by COVID-19 or if they were unrelated4.
June 2020: First confirmed PCR positive in the United States. The German shepherd from COVID-19 positive household had respiratory illness. The other dog in the household was antibody positive5.
October 2020: Canada reported its first case of a positive, asymptomatic dog that was identified as a part of a research study. People in the household were diagnosed with COVID-19 and likely transmitted the virus to the dog13.
Other dogs have been confirmed by the USDA to have had the infection via antibody testing as a part of targeted, active surveillance: 2 in Utah, 2 in Wisconsin, 1 in North Carolina, and 9 in Texas9.
April 2020: The United States confirmed its first two cases in pet cats in two different areas of New York state. Both cats had mild respiratory illness3.
Other cats have been confirmed by the USDA to have had the infection via PCR or antibody testing as a part of targeted, active surveillance: 4 in Utah, 2 in New York, 8 in Texas, and 1 in Louisiana12.
While there have NOT been any documented cases of naturally infected rabbits, ferrets, or hamsters, early and unpublished studies have shown that they are possibly susceptible to infection, and precautions should be considered if you are ill and have these animals in the household1–3. There is some evidence that while rabbits and ferrets can become infected, they seem to require closer contact for transmission, may be asymptomatic, and may not be able to spread it easily to others4,5.
In the United States, IDEXX, a veterinary testing service, announced that they have developed a test for COVID-19 in pets. In the process of validating this new test, thousands of samples (collected for other reasons) were tested from the U.S.; all tests for COVID-19 in those cats and dogs were negative1.
The USDA has begun tracking positive animal cases in the United States that have been confirmed by USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories, and are reporting them on their website: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/SA_One_Health/sars-cov-2-animals-us
All information to date indicates that some animals are able to be infected by the COVID-19 virus, but it appears to be an infrequent occurrence. In Hong Kong, at least 30 dogs and 17 cats have been tested from homes with owners that were either confirmed COVID-19 cases or were close contacts to a COVID-19 patient, and only 2 dogs and 1 cat have tested positive.
Recently, there has been strong evidence of at least two humans becoming infected after exposure to infected mink at farms in the Netherlands1,2. It is suspected that a human initially infected the mink at the farm, and then the infection spread back to other humans from these infected minks. In November, Denmark reported proof of human to mink to human transmission, as well as evidence of viral mutation during this infection cycle3.
In response to this evidence, the OIE released a statement acknowledging concerns about animals becoming reservoirs for the virus, and the possibility of future spillover events from animals to humans. In light of this public health concern, the OIE recommends the following: 1) implementing national risk reduction strategies and a One Health approach to prevent the transmission of the virus between humans and susceptible animals, 2) monitor susceptible animals and humans in contact with these animals, 3) report cases to the OIE, and 4) share genetic sequences and other research findings and data4.
A study out of the University of Minnesota and University of North Carolina looked at which animals have the most similar receptors to the virus when compared to humans. These receptors are used by the virus to enter the cell and cause infection. The study observed cats, ferrets, pigs, and non-human primates have the most similar receptors to human receptors1.
A small study (not peer reviewed or published at this time, which means it has not been evaluated by other scientists for validity and suitability for publication) out of an OIE collaborating research center in China investigated the ability of ferrets, dogs, cats, pigs, chickens, and ducks to become infected with the COVID-19 virus. Both ferrets and cats were able to be infected through direct exposure (placing virus into the nose). One cat became infected through close contact alone, which suggests that cats can spread the virus through respiratory droplets to other cats. Dogs were able to become infected with direct exposure, but did not become infected through close contact, and none of the dogs had symptoms. The pigs, chickens, and ducks did not become infected2.
Another very small study (not peer reviewed or published at this time) found that cats are highly susceptible to subclinical SARS-CoV-2 infection. This means they can become infected from humans or other cats, but typically do not have clinical signs or do not appear ill. While they are infected, however, they can spread the virus to other cats. Dogs were able to become infected but did not shed virus during infection. Therefore, dogs were unable to spread the virus3. Another small study (not peer reviewed or published at this time) demonstrated similar findings with cats: infected cats in the study were asymptomatic but were able to spread the virus to other cats in just a few days4.
A study performed in Hong Kong found evidence that human to cat transmission is possible but not common, with 6 out of 50 cats in COVID-19 positive households testing positive for the virus. One of the cats that tested positive had the identical viral genome sequence, providing more evidence that the infection was almost certainly acquired by the humans in the household5.
A small study with 7 cats and 3 dogs observed that dogs can become infected and mount an immune response to SARS-CoV-2, but do not shed virus; cats are susceptible to productive SARS-CoV-2 infection but are unlikely to develop clinical disease (signs and symptoms). Cats in this study also were resistant to reinfection, meaning cats could be useful to study further for vaccine development in humans6.
Researchers at the University College London published a study7 in Scientific Reports (Nature) showing that dozens of animals have the ACE2 spike protein, which allows the virus to infect the host. The study also reported that most birds, fish, and reptiles do not appear susceptible. This study highlights the importance of surveilling and monitoring farmed and wildlife species to detect possible reservoirs and prevent future outbreaks8.
In August, the Wildlife Health Specialist Group (WHSG) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the World Animal Health Organization created guidelines centered on SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk to free-ranging wild mammals. In this document, the risk of reverse zoonosis and the possibility of the wildlife population to become a reservoir for the virus is discussed in detail. Click here for the guidelines.
A study in Germany evaluated raccoon dogs as a potential intermediate host. The study found that raccoon dogs are susceptible to infection and are able to transmit the virus to other raccoon dogs in close proximity9.
Because this virus is new and we are still learning, as a precaution you should restrict contact with your pets if you are diagnosed with COVID-19. If this is not possible, wash your hands before touching your pet, avoid snuggling and other close contact, and wear a facemask or something to cover your nose and mouth.
There are no specific recommendations or guidelines at this time. However, in general, monitor your pet for any signs of illness (coughing, sneezing, excessive sleepiness, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing). Contact your veterinarian if these occur, particularly if your pet has been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
No. Currently, there are shortages of supplies such as facemasks, and medical personnel and those sick with COVID-19 should have first access to these masks. Additionally, especially in certain breeds, masks can cause breathing difficulty.
There is currently no vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. The canine coronavirus vaccine is not effective for preventing COVID-19, it is only effective for preventing canine coronavirus, which is a virus that causes severe diarrhea. They are two different coronaviruses.
In September, a vaccine candidate to protect cats from the virus that causes COVID-19 began clinical trials1. If successful, it will likely not be available until 2021 at the earliest.