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CVM Expert Member of Group Urging Surveillance of Possible Zoonotic Diseases Spread by Pets


Dr. Edward Breitschwerdt, a professor of internal medicine at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and an international expert in tick-borne infectious diseases, is one of the authors of the report, “Surveillance of Zoonotic Infectious Disease Transmitted by Small Companion Animals,” that appears in the Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report suggests a coordinated global surveillance system should be developed to monitor infectious diseases in dogs and cats that may spread to people. Tracking such zoonotic diseases is currently done for livestock and is being expanded for wildlife.

Understanding animal diseases that can spread to humans is critical for global public health.  CDC estimates that some 75% of recently emerging  infectious diseases affecting humans come from animals and that approximately 60% of all human pathogens are zoonotic.

In addition,  many experts believe that the next global pandemic will come from animals and that reporting zoonotic disease in wildlife and domestic animals–including pets–could lead to a real-time database that would not only speed vaccine preparation, but could head off a global spread of the disease.

“In developed countries the relationship between man and dogs and cats has deepened, with these animals now closely sharing the human indoor environment,” says the report’s lead author, Dr. Michael Day, professor of veterinary pathology in the School of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Bristol. “The benefits of pet ownership on human health, well-being and development are unquestionable, but as dogs and cats have moved from the barn, to the house, to the bedroom, the potential for disease spread to humans increases. Control of diseases among dogs and cats is a good way to prevent spread to humans.”

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Selected zoonotic infectious diseases of dogs and cats

 Report: “Surveillance of Zoonotic Infectious Disease Transmitted by Small Companion Animals”