WARNING!!! Domesticating animals and sharing beds with them, fuelling infectious diseases

WARNING!!! Domesticating animals and sharing beds with them, fuelling infectious diseases

The practice of domesticating animals and sharing beds with them has been attributed to the rise in human infectious diseases by medical experts.

They noted that there is an increase in the number of zoonotic diseases, which is also known as animal-to-human diseases, cautioning that these have the potential to cause widespread illness and even death.


While stressing the importance of creating better awareness and preparedness to prevent zoonotic diseases, the experts said the growing encroachment of humans on wildlife habitats contributes to the increase in zoonotic diseases.


According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, 60 per cent of pathogens that cause human disease originate from domestic and wild animals.

The global organisation noted that zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, Anthrax, Yellow fever, Marburg virus, and Monkeypox (Mpox) are becoming common in Africa and across the world.

It added that there are about 700,000 unknown zoonotic diseases that can potentially jump from animals and infect humans.


Corroborating the statistics, the World Health Organisation revealed that there has been a 63 per cent increase in the number of zoonotic outbreaks, such as Ebola and monkeypox diseases in Africa region from 2012 to 2022, compared to the previous decade (2001 to 2011).


Reacting, medical experts in separate interviews with PUNCH Healthwise said domesticating animals like dogs, and cats without vaccination can expose humans to harmful bacteria and viruses that may be present on their skin or hair.

They explained that pathogens in animals can be easily transferred to humans through direct contact, or the sharing of surfaces or beddings.

According to them, many animals, such as cats and dogs, may carry fleas and ticks, which can also transmit diseases to humans.


The experts further stated that close proximity of humans and animals can lead to a disruption of the body’s natural defenses, making it easier for diseases to take hold.


A Senior Veterinary officer at the Ogun State Ministry of Health, Dr Tokunbo Otulana said there is a need for people to always ascertain the cause of their diseases before treatment.

He noted that 63 per cent of all diseases currently known in Africa are zoonotic, meaning that it can be transferred from animals to human beings.

The veterinarian lamented that lack of diagnosis makes it difficult for Nigeria to identify certain illnesses that are pathogen-related.


He said, “It is true that 63 per cent of all diseases currently known are zoonotic and can be harboured and transferred between animals and humans.

“But in Nigeria, because of our level of detail, we don’t research the origin of diseases, rather, we just tackle them head-on.

“The most common ones we talked about is rabies; that’s probably the most deadly of them all but there are others that one can get from eating meat, bush meat and these diseases are pretty common.

“Zoonotic disease can be transferred and they could be viruses, bacteria, they could be parasites generally.”


Speaking on the complications that could arise from zoonotic infections, Otulana warned that tuberculosis can be transferred between cows and humans.

He explained that the bacterium that causes tuberculosis in humans can also infect cows, and that close contact with infected cows can lead to the disease being transmitted to humans.


“Tuberculosis can be transferred between cows and humans. And this can happen when a cow with TB is consumed. Those lumps inside the lungs cause complications to the respiratory system.

“People that eat the brain of cows are at risk of a disease that will manifest as a nervous disorder.


“Similarly, Lassa fever, which is a haemorrhagic fever seems to be common because it’s transmitted by rats.

“You cannot say zoonotic diseases have a particular complication because there are plenty of zoonotic diseases. At least, about 15 of them are prominent in Nigeria. It depends on the disease that is actually transmitted for you to know the complications that will follow it,” he noted.


When asked about the group more vulnerable to zoonotic diseases, the expert said, “People that work with animals are more vulnerable. In Nigeria, there was a time we were sensitising butchers to do regular TB tests because they are exposed to fresh tissues of cattle, so they can pick it up from work.

“If you are butchering a TB cow and some of the fluid touches, or you have a cut on your hand, you are at risk of getting the disease.

“People that work closer with animals or process bush meat are more predisposed to it because they have direct contact. And it’s not just contacts; they work in close proximity with these animals, so they are more predisposed to it.”


On how best to domesticate animals, Otulana said, “Any domesticated animal that is not well vaccinated or taken care of predisposes you to some of these diseases.”

“If you have an unvaccinated dog, you stand the risk of getting rabies. If you have a cat that is not vaccinated, you are at risk of having HPV.

“So generally, if you take care of your animals, you reduce the risk of having their diseases transferred to you.


“This is not to say that once you keep any particular animal, you will have a zoonotic disease. People keep monkeys and they take care of their monkeys by having them vaccinated. By doing this, they don’t get to expose themselves to zoonotic diseases. But people that bring animals straight from the wild to their homes without any veterinary or health care intervention are actually opening themselves up to anything that is coming from the wild.”


On his part, a consultant at the Department of Community Medicine, Federal Medical Centre, Idi-Aba, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Olorunfemi Solomon, lamented that zoonatic diseases is associated with high morbidity and mortality in Africa.

The physician noted that poor personal hygiene and a dirty environment contribute to how sick pathogens can make humans.


He said, “Zoonotic diseases are associated with high morbidity and mortality. In other words, it is associated with high deaths at birth. There are a lot of things associated with this increase in the prevalence of zoonotic diseases.

“We don’t really put efforts into personal hygiene and environmental sanitation, hence, we allow bush in our household, and this is causing a lot of havoc.

“Garbage in the kitchen can attract rodents and other animals. Food items should be put in a rodent-protected container to avoid contamination.”


Speaking on the complications of zoonotic diseases, the medical expert said the type of bacteria contracted from an animal would determine how the body reacts to it.

He said anyone living around animals stands the risk of zoonotic infections.


The physician, however, noted that better public health surveillance and improved disease monitoring are critical to reducing the impact of zoonotic diseases.

He stressed that it is important to develop a system that allows for early detection of outbreaks and rapid response so that they can be contained before they become major epidemics.


Solomon emphasised the importance of improving animal health, stressing that healthy animals are less likely to carry and transmit diseases to humans.

WARNING!!! Domesticating animals and sharing beds with them, fuelling infectious diseases
Domesticating animals and sharing beds with them, fuelling infectious diseases

Meanwhile, a study published in the journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases” found that domestic animals, such as cats and dogs, are responsible for a significant number of infections in humans.

The study, which looked at data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that cats and dogs were responsible for more than 60 per cent of all infections transmitted from animals to humans.

These infections included rabies, ringworm, and cat scratch fever.


The study also discovered that these infections were more common in people who shared a bed with their pets or had close contact with them.

The researchers found that the majority of infections transmitted from pets to humans were caused by bacteria and parasites, rather than viruses and that about 10 per cent of the infections were caused by viruses.

They concluded that while many of these infections can be prevented through proper hygiene and sanitation, some are more difficult to prevent.

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