“A potential source of new diseases may arise due to the tremendous amount of international trading of animals, illegal trading in many cases, that usually involve wild animals,” said Russell.
Russell noted an example of a small breed of rats that were being shipped to a company in Texas via West Africa. While in Texas, the rats were housed with prairie dogs, then both animals were shipped to 17 different states to be sold as pets. Veterinarians later discovered that the animals carried a disease known as monkeypox that was being contracted by people in the United States.
“Veterinarians work hard to prevent zoonoses and are called on to work closely with physicians to help in identifying cases like these,” said Russell.
For example, In the state of Texas, when any animal bites a person there are certain public health laws that must be followed. If the animal that is believed to have inflicted the wound is captured and is a dog or a cat it must be quarantined for 10 days, and a veterinarian must then OK that the animal is free of rabies before it can be released.
Rabies is a classic example of a global zoonotic disease, which is responsible for the death of about one person every 10 minutes somewhere in the world. The human rabies is mostly still seen in Africa or Southeast Asia as a result of dog bites.
“Dogs are the main carrier of rabies throughout the world, although we are very fortunate in the United States to have eradicated the dog strain of rabies virus in dogs through our rabies vaccination program,” said Russell.
Russell explained that United States still has cases of rabies in wildlife however. The Eastern United States usually sees the virus in raccoons, the Southwestern states see it in foxes, and everywhere in the country will see it in the bat populations.