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Treatment of Zoonoses


The treatment of zoonotic and nonzoonotic diseases of animals is similar; however, treatments that prolong the shedding of zoonotic organisms should be avoided unless there are overriding considerations. For example, antibiotic treatment is usually contraindicated in uncomplicated Salmonella-associated diarrhea; however, animals that carry zoonotic organisms may be treated to reduce human exposure, even when the infection is subclinical or self-limiting. During treatment of zoonotic diseases, every precaution should be taken to prevent human infection. Professional judgment is required to determine whether to keep the animal in its home environment or isolate it in a hospital ward. Factors to consider include the potential severity of the disease in humans, the susceptibility of individuals in the household, and the ability of human caregiver(s) to carry out barrier nursing, sanitation, and hygiene protocols. The client should always be informed if treatment is not certain to eliminate the pathogen, which could then persist in a latent or chronic, subclinical form. Zoonotic concerns may dictate euthanasia of the animal, especially when the disease is likely to be fatal.

People who may have contracted a zoonotic disease should be referred to their family physician for diagnosis and treatment. The physician should be given any information necessary to facilitate diagnosis, particularly if the disease is unusual and would not ordinarily be among the differential diagnoses. Simultaneous elimination of the pathogen from both animal and human hosts is ideal, to prevent it from cycling between the hosts. Public health authorities must be contacted when a reportable zoonotic disease (eg, rabies) is found in an animal.

Last full review/revision March 2012 by James A. Roth, DVM, PhD, DACVM; Anna Rovid Spickler, DVM, PhD

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