Zoonotic and Vector-Borne Diseases

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Zoonotic diseases are diseases of animals that can be transmitted to humans.

Vectorborne diseases are diseases that are transmitted to humans by an animal (the vector). Classically the term vector was restricted to arthropods like ticks and mosquitoes, however, it is often used to refer to any animal that can transmit a pathogen to a human host. Most vectorborne diseases are also zoonotic diseases, that is originating in animals, although some, like yellow fever and malaria, are transmitted from human to human.

Recent concerns have focused on West Nile Virus, BSE, and now avian influenza. While most strains of avian influenza are not pathogenic to human, today’s news is filled with reports of the spread of H5N1 avian influenza in poultry in Asia and Europe, and its ability to infect humans.

While zoonotic and vectorborne diseases occur at a relatively low rate in Washington and the Northwest, there are some human cases every year. Recent cases of rabies, Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, and Hantavirus have been recorded in recent year.

Chronic conditions can also be linked to animals. In 2000, the Institute of Medicine published the report "Clearing the Air." The report found sufficient evidence to suggest a causal relationship between exposure to house dust mite allergen and development of asthma in susceptible children. It also found some evidence to link asthma's development with exposure to cockroach allergen in preschool-aged children.

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