Experts have highlighted the risk zoonotic diseases pose to emphasise the need for urgent focus.
Ebola and rabies are among the diseases global animal medicine association, HealthforAnimals, is trying to raise awareness of, to mark World Zoonoses Day tomorrow (6 July).
HealthforAnimals executive director Carel du Marchie Sarvaas said: “To combat the global zoonotic threat, HealthforAnimals advocates the use of preventive veterinary medicines and the widespread use and development of vaccines.
“For example, rabies causes more than 60,000 deaths each year, but is entirely preventable through canine vaccination programmes.”
Leptospirosis is another major, yet under-recognised, global threat to public health. However, a vaccine exists for pets against the bacterial infection, which is most commonly spread by rodents.
The World Health Organization has set up the Leptospirosis Burden Epidemiology Reference Group, in partnership with other international actors, to conduct global research. The aim is to collect transmission data and create a policy targeted towards decreasing the burden of the disease.
Pet owners are also encouraged to vaccinate as a way to best protect themselves from infection, which can be passed on through direct or indirect contact with contaminated animal tissues, organs or urine.
“Protecting animals from these diseases has many benefits, from safeguarding human health to supporting greater animal welfare around the world,” Mr du Marchie Sarvaas said.
“While there are often barriers to implementing preventive veterinary medicines and vaccines in the fight against the spread of zoonotic diseases, the animal health industry must work together with non-governmental organisations, inter-governmental bodies, governments and regulators around the world to encourage access to medicines. Otherwise, the cost will continue to be human lives.”
To find out more about zoonotic and vector-borne diseases, as well as the ways animal health plays a role in safeguarding human well-being, visit http://healthforanimals.org or follow the conversation on Twitter @Health4Animals.