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How to reduce the transmission of diseases from pets to humans

What you need to know about One Health Day

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On Friday, I had a busy day and missed the announcement that it was One Health Day.

It’s a global campaign that brings attention to the need for a coordinated approach to address shared health threats at the human-animal-environment interface.

I’d never heard of One Health Day before, but it addresses a number of health concerns I’ve written about over the years:

  • Zoonotic diseases that spread between animals and people such as covid-19 and mpox.
  • Foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella.
  • Infections that spread in hospitals and other healthcare settings.
  • Infections that are resistant to antibiotics such MRSA or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, c. difficile, or drug-resistant TB.
  • Diseases spread by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas, including yellow fever, Lyme disease, and dengue.
  • The public health threat of PFAS, commonly called “forever chemicals.”  

Many factors have changed interactions between people, animals, plants, and the environment. Human populations are growing and expanding into new areas. People are living in closer contact with wild and domestic animals, including livestock. Closer contact provides greater opportunity for diseases to pass between animals and people.

In addition to land use, climate change also is disrupting environmental conditions and habitats and providing opportunities for animals-people disease transmission.

International travel and trade also provide a greater opportunity for diseases to spread across borders and globally.

A One Health approach recognizes the close connection between the health of people, animals, and the environment and the role this connection plays in the spread of diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the United States, the CDC has a One Health office that works here and with other countries to take a targeted approach to control and prevent zoonotic and emerging infectious diseases.

It prepares for and responds to outbreaks and public health emergencies, such as Ebola, Zika, and covid-19; provides information on public health, agriculture, wildlife; educates people on ways to prevent diseases they can get from pets, wildlife, and farm animals; and develops guidance for veterinarians, public health officials, wildlife professionals, and animal health officials.

“The One Health approach is critical to addressing public health threats by integrating environmental issues,” Global Biodefense, an organization that offers news and insights on health security from pathogens and emerging infectious diseases, said in a statement. “Emerging diseases such as Ebola, MERS-CoV, and COVID-19, underline the need for concerted action across sectors.”

While it was interesting to learn about this important effort, in my experience reporting on some of these issues, I think the regulations in the United States are lacking. For example, cattle are crowded in feed lots and chickens are crammed in cages. These conditions foster diseases and food producers give the animals antibiotics raised in crowded conditions to prevent diseased. This practice should be banned or at leas widely curbed.

In addition, regulations on food safety in this country are lacking. A certain level of Salmonella is allowed on chicken. That's why consumers are warned continually to be careful how they handle chicken in their kitchens, to make sure they don’t spread Salmonella around their kitchens, which can result in salmonellosis.

Salmonellosis can cause diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps within eight to 72 hours after exposure. Salmonella infection usually isn’t life-threatening. However, in certain people – especially infants and young children, older adults, transplant recipients, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems – the development of complications can be dangerous.

Another atrocious lack of regulation is China allowing wild animals to be sold in food markets. It needs to be banned immediately. So many people suffered needlessly from the SARS-CoV-2 transmission from a bat to a wild animal to humans. And, the suffering continues.

The One Health Day information I ran across on pets and transmittable diseases is helpful. I’ll share it in my next post.

This year was the eighth annual One Health Day.

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