Animals and Pandemics: Diseases Transmitted from Animals to Humans

We have an important relationship with animals. Some even live with us as our pets. Most of the time, diseases they carry cannot be transmitted to us, but many pandemics have been caused by the transmission of a virus from an animal to one of us. Here is a look back at some of the latest ones.

No Danger to Get Sick from Your Pet

The current COVID-19 pandemic is reminding us, that although it is rare that viruses can be transferred from animals to humans, such possibilities do exist. In fact, during the coronavirus crisis, we have seen the reverse cases, where humans contaminated their cats; a very rare occurrence. For those worried about adopting a new pet, especially one that is a bit different, like a mouse, you should not be. The danger of contamination from them to you is almost inexistent. For example, mice porphyrin isn’t transmissible and so are the other diseases they carry.

But that said, biologist Nathan Wolfe reminds us in his last book “The Viral Storm” that almost all pandemics began with the transmission of an animal microbe to a human. These animals are normally found on the farm, and they can carry the source from the wild and transmit it to us. Here are some of the latest epidemics brought on by animals.

MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome)

MERS was first detected in humans, in Saudi Arabia, in 2012. Today, it has spread to 27 countries. It is viral and can be contracted through direct or indirect contact via an infected animal, or between humans through droplets from the mouth. We count more than 2,400 cases and 912 human deaths.

H1N1 (Swine flu)

H1N1 was first detected in humans in California, USA, in 2009. The disease first spread to Mexico and then to the rest of the world. The first contamination came from a transfer from animal to human, through close contact of infected meat at a slaughterhouse. It travels between humans through droplets. The global number of cases is unknown and there has been between 150,000 and 575,000 human deaths.

H7N7 (Bird flu)

H7N7 was first detected in humans in The Netherlands, in 2003. After hitting that country, the disease reappeared through outbreaks in various others, including the UK, China and Spain. The contamination took place because of direct or indirect contact with infected poultry. It is possible, but not confirmed, that there were cases of transmission between humans as well. In The Netherlands, more than 2,000 people were infected.

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