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 email@example.com.
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.
Leishmaniases in the European Union and Neighboring Countries – 6/2021
Leishmaniases are endemic in humans and animals in part of the European Union (EU) and its neighboring countries. Leishmania species in this region are L. major, L. tropica, and the L. donovani complex species (including L. infantumand L. donovani sensu stricto). All cause cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL); visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is caused mainly by L. donovani complex species. There is evidence that the risk for leishmaniases is increasing in some EU and neighboring countries. We conducted a questionnaire survey to gather information on the epidemiologic situation, surveillance, prevention and control measures, and drivers of emergence of animal and human leishmaniases in this region during 2010–2020. Few countries implement surveillance and control targeting both animal and human infections. Leishmaniases are considered emergent diseases in most countries, and lack of resources is a challenge for control.
Atypical Brucella Species in Two Marine Toads – 6/2021
Brucellosis is a worldwide zoonosis caused by gram-negative, intracellular Brucella coccobacilli. Expanding from six species classically associated with abortion in mammals (B. melitensis, B. suis, B. abortus, B. ovis, B. canis, and B. neotomae), the genus now includes novel strains from marine mammals (B. ceti, B. pinnipedialis), baboons (B. papionis), and foxes (B. vulpis). Two of these (B. ceti, B. pinnipedialis) are also considered atypical Brucella species similar to B. microti and B. inopinata. Atypical Brucella lesions in humans, wild mammals, amphibians, and fish range from localized manifestations to systemic infection with high death rates; however, reproductive lesions more typical of mammalian brucellosis are rare in amphibians. Previous reports of Brucella in amphibians have also included asymptomatic infections, suggesting that Brucella may be a commensal microorganism or opportunistic pathogen. The precise epidemiology, pathogenesis, and zoonotic potential of Brucella in amphibians remains largely unknown. We report atypical Brucella infection in 2 marine toads. These findings represent a novel emerging disease in toads and a possible zoonotic pathogen.
CDC Releases Data on Blue-Green Algae Impacts to Humans and Animals – 6/1/2021
Blue-green algae are toxic to humans and animals. The CDC has released the first round of nationally sourced data collected through its national reporting system One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System. The system provides an electronic platform for state officials to submit information on illnesses to humans and animals due to exposure to blue-green algae. The system collected data from 18 states, including Florida. The data is from 2016 through 2018.
Reporting the data is voluntary and the CDC hopes more states will join Florida and the program as time goes on. “There are a lot of questions, a lot of data gaps around cyanobacteria blooms and their health effects,” said Dr. Virginia Roberts, an epidemiologist with the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, part of the CDC. “It’s an emerging issue for sure.” One reason for the gap is that even as reports show the frequency, intensity and spread of harmful algal bloom no national public health system tracked the impact on human health prior to 2016. “Prior to 2016, there was no national platform for recording these events. So as a country, we weren’t collecting the data about these health events,” Roberts said.
Roberts authored the report on harmful algal blooms and their effect on human and animal health. “Most of the harmful algal bloom reports that we received were related to cyanobacteria blooms, which people often call blue-green algae,” Roberts said. That’s the algae often found in Southwest Florida. The top symptoms include gastrointestinal distress, headaches, fever and lethargy. “It helps us understand a little bit more the magnitude of the problem in terms of who’s getting sick, when they’re getting sick, where these events are occurring,” Roberts said. The 18 reporting states reported 421 harmful algal blooms, leading to 389 cases of human illness, but not death were reported. The same can’t be said for animals. During that two-year period, algal blooms impacted 413 animals, killing 369 of them.
Australia Tries to Get a Handle on Mouse Plague – 6/3/2021
Anglers in Australia's Murray-Darling Basin river system are reeling in cod with bellies and throats full of mice, which are overrunning New South Wales. The government recently announced a $38.3 million support and mitigation package that includes $1.38 million for research on genetic approaches to controlling mouse populations as well as funding for a controversial plan to distribute bromadiolone, a powerful anticoagulant that could have consequences for predators throughout the ecosystem.
Bobcat Fever Spreading in Georgia Cats – 6/5/2021
Five counties in central Georgia have seen an uptick in cytauxzoonosis, or bobcat fever, and veterinarians say pet cats should be kept indoors or treated consistently with an effective anti-tick product and checked daily for ticks. Cats bitten by a tick carrying the disease-causing protozoa develop lethargy, lack of appetite, fever, anemia, jaundice and difficulty breathing and can die if they do not receive immediate veterinary care, says veterinary entomologist Nancy Hinkle.
Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes Cut Dengue by 77% - 6/9/2021
A pilot test in Indonesia of mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria reduced dengue cases by 77% and related hospitalizations by 86%, researchers reported in The New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers placed 5 million Wolbachia-infected mosquito eggs in buckets of water every two weeks in 12 study zones and compared the results with control zones in the same city.
Researchers Identify 24 Novel Coronaviruses in Bats – 6/10/2021
One of 24 novel coronaviruses identified in bats in southwestern China differs from SARS-CoV-2 only in parts of the DNA encoding the spike protein, and three others are also genetically similar to the SARS coronavirus, researchers reported in Cell. Coronaviruses can infect a wide variety of animals other than humans, and the study "highlights the remarkable diversity of bat coronaviruses at the local scale, including close relatives of both SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV," the researchers wrote.
Oakland Zoo Vaccinating Wild Rabbits for RHDV2 – 6/10/2021
Veterinarians at California's Oakland Zoo are working with state and federal wildlife officials to vaccinate native riparian brush rabbits in the Central Valley against rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2. Twenty wild rabbits that were caught and vaccinated to ensure the vaccine's safety have been released, and more will be vaccinated in their natural habitat.
China: H5N8 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Shaanxi Province – 6/10/2021
The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs reported Wednesday on a wild bird H5N8 subtype highly pathogenic avian influenza epidemic in the Hongjiannao National Nature Reserve in Shenmu City, Yulin City, Shaanxi Province. The outbreak, confirmed by the National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory, has resulted in 4249 deaths of wild birds.
The local area immediately activated an emergency response mechanism, carried out emergency response work, treated all sick and dead wild birds in a harmless manner, and disinfected the surrounding environment. Since the beginning of this year, a total of 6 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks (all wild birds) have been reported across the country. The outbreaks were all localized and no regional outbreaks have occurred.
Predicament Over CWD-Infested Dump Site on Public Land – 6/11/2021
Minnesota officials are scrambling to fight against the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in northern deer herds where the always fatal neurological disease has traveled to Beltrami County by virtue of commercial deer farming. Governor Tim Walz wants the Legislature to strip deer farming oversight from the Board of Animal Health, which has been implicated of being too cozy with deer farms by a Minnesota Legislative Auditor's report, and lax on regulations meant to prevent CWD transmission.
The DNR is racing to build a fence around public land where the heavily infected deer farm dumped carcasses. CWD could have already spread from the dump site to an abundant population of wild deer previously considered untouched by CWD. Investigators suspect the Beltrami farm became entangled with CWD by unknowingly acquiring a CWD-infected deer from a trophy buck deer farm in Winona County. The same Winona farm has been described as the vector to a separate CWD outbreak on a deer farm in Houston County. The Beltrami farmer, whose identity has not been revealed, accepted an undisclosed amount of federal money this spring to go out of business and have his herd killed and tested.
After a state investigation determined that nine other Minnesota deer farms in eight counties could be linked to the Beltrami farm outbreak, the DNR on June 1st imposed a two-month moratorium against the movement of any Minnesota farmed white-tailed deer for any reason to another location. According to the Board of Animal Health, 143 captive deer at the nine farms are considered exposed to CWD and should be killed and tested.
Germany: H1N1v Influenza Case Reported in Teen – 6/11/2021
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports on a human case of infection with an influenza
A(H1N1)v virus in Germany recently. The individual infected is a 17-year-old boy from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania who developed an influenza-like illness onset on 18 April 2021. The virus was confirmed with genome sequencing conducted at the National Influenza Centre (NIC) at the Robert Koch Institute in a sample collected as part of routine sentinel surveillance. Sequencing indicated the virus belonged to the Eurasian avian-like (EA) lineage of swine influenza A viruses, specifically clade 1C.2.1.
The patient worked on a swine farm a few days prior to illness onset. After developing respiratory symptoms, he was isolated as SARS-CoV-2 infection was suspected. There were no symptoms in other workers at the farm or other members of the case’s family and the case has recovered. Further animal health and virological investigations are ongoing.
Deer Virus Prompts Concern for Washington Islands and Mainland – 6/12/2021
Adenovirus hemorrhagic disease is spreading among deer on islands in Washington state, prompting reports of dead animals and concern that mainland animals could soon be affected. Washington State Veterinarian Kristin Mansfield says the virus, initially discovered in California nearly three decades ago, causes blood vessels to leak fluid into surrounding tissues, and it could be spread by scavengers, people carrying the pathogen on shoes or tires, or by deer swimming between islands.
Smallpox Vaccine to be Supplied to the UK for New Monkeypox Cases – 6/12/2021
Bavarian Nordic A/S announced Friday that the Company was recently engaged by Public Health England (PHE) and the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to supply its IMVANEX® smallpox vaccine in response to new cases of monkeypox in the UK. Two related cases were confirmed and admitted to a hospital in Liverpool. One was most likely infected in Africa, where the family arrived from a few days before onset of disease, and a sibling case most likely infected on UK soil by the first case.
IMVANEX (MVA-BN) is approved by the European Commission for active immunization against smallpox but has also received approval for monkeypox by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada, as the only vaccine approved for this indication in these territories. Bavarian Nordic previously delivered IMVANEX to PHE in connection with the first human cases of monkeypox in the UK in 2018 and later in 2019, when several unrelated human cases were imported from Nigeria with a subsequent infection of a healthcare worker in the UK.
Fake Rabies Records Prompt Crackdown on Dog Imports – 6/14/2021
The CDC found that more than 450 dogs imported to the US last year had fraudulent or falsified rabies certificates, up 52% from the prior two years. The U.S. imports about 1 million dogs each year. So, starting on July 14, the CDC is banning the importation of any dogs from 113 countries considered at high risk for rabies for a year. The countries are widespread, and include Kenya, Uganda, Brazil, Colombia, Russia, Vietnam, North Korea, Nepal, China and Syria. The AVMA President Dr. Douglas Kratt welcomed the decision, noting that introduction of a new strain of rabies to the US would be a serious concern.
Florida Reports 4th Eastern Equine Encephalitis Case in Leon County – 6/14/2021
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported a case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in a horse in Leon County in the panhandle. This is the fourth confirmed EEE case for Florida in 2021. Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) is spread to horses and humans by infected mosquitoes, including several Culex species and Culiseta melanura.
In horses, the virus causes inflammation or swelling of the brain and spinal cord. General symptoms include central nervous system signs such as: head pressing, convulsions, lack of response to facial stimulation, fever above 103 degrees, ataxia, paralysis, anorexia, depression and stupor. Other symptoms may include irregular gait, teeth grinding, in-coordination, circling, and staggering. All symptoms may not be exhibited by an infected horse. The mortality rate in horses from EEE is almost 90%.
In humans, symptoms of EEE disease often appear 4 to 10 days after someone is bitten by an infected mosquito. EEE is a more serious disease than West Nile Virus (WNV) and carries a high mortality rate for those who contract the serious encephalitis form of the illness. Symptoms may include high fever, severe headache, stiff neck, and sore throat. There is no specific treatment for the disease, which can lead to seizures and coma.
Kissing Bug Detected in Nebraska for the First Time – 6/15/2021
Entomologists from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Entomology identified a species of kissing bug for the first time in Nebraska last summer, the state department of health reports.
“Kissing bug” is the common name for a group of bugs called triatomines. These are blood-sucking insects that are found across the Southern United States, Mexico, Central, and South America especially during the summer months. The species recently detected in Nebraska was identified as Triatoma sanguisuga or the Eastern blood-sucking conenose. This species has been found as far north as Pennsylvania and as far west as Texas.
The main risk associated with kissing bugs is the presence of a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi for short) that lives in the bug’s intestines and is shed in feces. This parasite can cause Chagas disease in the people and animals it infects. Although infections from this parasite are not common, approximately 25% of people that are infected develop serious chronic disease, so early diagnosis is important. Importantly, infections from the Eastern blood-sucking conenose are even rarer and the risk of infection in Nebraska is considered to be very low. However, some of the collected kissing bugs were tested for the presence of T. cruzi with several testing positive for the parasite. This is the first recorded detection of this parasite in Nebraska. Anyone who has seen kissing bugs in their home or who thinks they may have been bitten by one should talk to their doctor about getting tested for Chagas disease.
COVID-19 Creates Conditions for Emergence of Candida auris in Brazil – 6/15/2021
Fully occupied intensive care units (ICUs). Physically and mentally exhausted health workers. Chaotically overcrowded hospitals. These and similar problems posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil have created ideal conditions for the emergence of Candida auris, a microorganism some are calling a “superfungus” because of the speed with which it has developed drug resistance. The first two cases were confirmed in December 2020 at a hospital in Salvador (state of Bahia, Northeast Brazil), and are described in the Journal of Fungi by a group of researchers led by Arnaldo Colombo, head of the Special Mycology Laboratory at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP). The study was supported by São Paulo Research Foundation – FAPESP.
“Nine other C. auris patients have since been diagnosed at the same hospital, some colonized [with the fungus in their organism but not doing harm] and others infected,” Colombo told. “No other cases have been reported in Brazil, but there are grounds for concern. We’re monitoring the evolutionary characteristics of C. auris isolates from patients at the hospital in Salvador, and we’ve already found samples with reduced sensitivity to fluconazole and echinocandins. The latter belong to the main class of drugs used to treat invasive candidiasis.” Except for C. auris, fungi of the genus Candida are part of the human gut microbiota and cause problems only when there are imbalances in the organism, Colombo explained. These include infections such as vaginal yeast infection and thrush (oral candidiasis), often caused by C. albicans.
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.