Hospitals are an early portal for infection cases which can often go undiagnosed as they resemble common illnesses such as colds and stomach upsets, says medical journal paper.

Medical staff have been called on to pay greater attention to animal-to-human diseases from pets, foreign travel, petting zoos and other sources within their hospitals.

The paper says that hospital staff are on the front line when dealing with zoonotic infections, and that vets need to advise their clients on the health risks associated with having an exotic animal.In a new paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (Short Reports), authors say animal-related pandemics have been identified as a major global threat to human health and that “hospitals are often an early portal for infection cases and must be equipped to promptly and effectively diagnose and control the spread of zoonotic disease.”

Entitled Managing patients for zoonotic disease in the hospital environment, the paper includes a protocol for managing patients and information for patients to help prevent animal-linked disease. Such guidance needs to be followed, says the paper, as zoonotic diseases often resemble common illnesses, such as gastrointestinal, respiratory and dermal disease, meaning the problem may go undiagnosed.

Exotic pets are highlighted as a particularly significant disease risk, with the provided guidance emphasising the difficulty of guarding against exotic pet infections in the home.

Lead author and scientist Clifford Warwick said: “Whether through keeping exotic pets in the home, visiting roadside zoos abroad or other issues, exposure to atypical bugs is a matter of increasing concern to both the medical profession and governments.

“Hospital personnel are frequently on the front line when dealing with these zoonotic infections and infestations. This article sets out general protocols for health care workers when assessing possible zoonoses in patients, as well as equipping them with guidance to help patients avoid unnecessary animal-linked disease.”

Co-author and director of Collaborating for Global Health Susan Corning said: “This is a true One Health issue, and there is an urgent need for the medical and veterinary professions to collaboratively plan to ensure hospital staff can implement simple and effective measures to prevent and control zoonoses generally as well as nosocomial disease.”

The paper concludes by calling on local authorities, doctors, vets and facility managers to advise their patients and customers of the health risks associated with having an exotic animal.

To read the paper in full, visit the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine’s website.

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