Medical Fun Facts Podcast

MFF0041: Zoönoses

If I’ve timed this correctly, tonight’s show is dropping on Monday 20 February 2017.

Tonight’s episode is about something beginning with the letter Z. For anyone listening in the USA, that is something beginning with the letter Zed (not Zee)!

So tonight I’ve chosen zoönoses or zoönotic infections.

What are zoönotic infections? A zoönosis is a disease that can be transmitted to humans by non-human animals. This can include your dog or cat, bats are really important carriers of zoönotic infections, as well as other mammals and birds. Birds are great carriers of zoönotic infections.

Think about influenza, basically all influenza viruses originate from birds, even when we talk about swine influenza, that virus had an origin in a bird.

On farms, anthrax used to be a common zoönosis.

Attacking animals like dogs can cause rabies as well as potentially fatal septicæmia with Capnocytophaga canimorsus.

Hunting can have its problems, e.g., brucellosis from hunting wild boar and Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiæ when prawning or fishing.

Insects are common vectors of infectious diseases like the infection from Ross River virus and Barmah Forrest virus. At the moment, there has been epidemiological reporting of an increased number of people being infected with Ross River virus in Victoria.

Pet snakes and other reptiles can share their cryptosporidium and Salmonella with you. Mind you most Salmonella infections are foodborne. To be honest, snakes give me the heebie-jeebies, I can’t understand how people can sleep with them let alone pat and touch them. I remember watching Steve Irwin once with a giant python on the NRL Footy Show, the snake crapped itself and it looked like it had oozed jars of peanut paste all over the hosts.

An odd cause maybe when you have a pig heart valve used to replace your own native heart valve, you may end up with a porcine herpes virus infection (xenotransplantation).

Fetes, shows and fairs have their fair (pun intended) share of infections when they do things like petting exhibitions. Sheep and other animals can share pathogenic bacteria with little children.

Probably the biggest and best example of a zoönoses is foodborne illnesses caused by Salmonella and Campylobacter. In Australia, you should always assume that any raw chicken you have may contain Salmonella and Campylobacter. It’s important to prepare and cook all food correctly. In Canberra, salmonellosis has hit the news with a favourite café that I love attending being closed by the ACT Government authorities. Salmonella has been grown from the premises and quite a few Canberra residents have confirmed infection with Salmonella. It just goes to show even the best places can have problems. One of my favourite restaurants in Darwin had a problem with Norovirus in oyster meat it had imported from Japan. So people got ill but many of them swore they would return and eat the same dish because it tasted so good. That restaurant promised to source its oyster meat from Australia from then on. I feel the same way about this current Canberra café.

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