Zoonoses in Children: Disease, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention


All farm animals naturally carry a range of diseases, some of which can also affect humans. These diseases are known as zoonoses, and if you work with animals or your kids play with them, then their health may be at risk from them. Zoonoses are caused by micro-organisms. Diseases transmitted from animals to humans can also affect visitors to farms – especially children or the elderly, who are more vulnerable to infection. These illnesses include those resulting from infection with the organisms Escherichia coli O157 (E coli O157) and Cryptosporidium parvum.

A Guide for Zoonoses in Children


Disease of zoonoses in children

  • Rabies
    rabies is a disease that affects the nervous system of mammals. It is caused by a virus and is typically spread by an infected animal biting another animal or person. Rabies is a fatal disease; it cannot be treated once symptoms appear. Luckily, rabies can be effectively prevented by vaccination.
  • Blastomycosis (blastomyces dermatitidis)
    blastomycosis is a rare fungal infection usually acquired by inhaling the spores of a fungus (blastomyces dermatitidis) that can be found in wood and soil.
  •  Psittacosis (chlamydophila psittaci, chlamydia psittaci)
    infection with chlamydophila psittaci (formerly known as chlamydia psittaci) is cause of systemic illness in companion birds (birds kept by humans as pets) and poultry. This illness is often referred to as avian chlamydiosis (also known as psittacosis, ornithosis, and parrot fever) in birds.
  • Trichinosis (trichinella spiralis)
  • Cat scratch disease (bartonella henselae)
  • Histoplasmosis (histoplasma capsulatum)
  • Coccidiomycosis (valley fever)
  • Intestinal illness acquired from animals
    there are certain intestinal diseases acquired from animals, such as:
  • Reptiles and amphibians: salmonella
    some reptiles and amphibians can make cool pets, but they can also be a source of illness. Reptiles (e.g., iguanas, turtles, snakes) and amphibians (e.g., frogs and toads) carry salmonella.
  • Chicks and ducklings: salmonella
    those cute little chicks and ducklings can be a great attraction for children this time of year, but they can also be a source of illness, so it’s important for those who handle them to take steps to prevent infection.

Symptoms of zoonoses in children

  •  High and protracted (extended) fever. Infection affects bone, heart, gallbladder, kidney, spleen, and causes highly disseminated lesions and abscess.
  • Mild gastroenteritiis (diarrhea) to high fever, severe headache, and spleen enlargement. May lead to focal infection in any organ or tissue of the body.
  • Ranges from asymptomatic carrier to severe bacillary dysentery with high fevers, weakness, severe abdominal cramps (in case of young girls), prostration, edema of the face and neck, and diarrhea with blood, mucous and inflammatory cells.
  • Headache, muscle ache, eye pain with bright lights, chills and fever. Fever with stiffness of the neck and inflammation of the nerves to the eyes, brain, and spinal column.
  • Fever, headache and muscle pain that lasts 4-10 days and subsides. Afebrile period lasting 5-6 days followed by a recurrence of acute symptoms.
  • Ranges from fever and fatigue to chronic pulmonary disease (fatal). Lungs, kidney, vasculature (affects all parts of body).
  • Cholera-like symptoms (fever, chills, prostration). Skin lesions, swollen lymph glands, abscesses septicemia or pneumonia.
  • High fever, chills, headache, focal ulcers, swollen lymph nodes.

Treatment of zoonoses in children

Antibiotic treatment is usually contraindicated in uncomplicated salmonella-associated diarrhea, because these drugs may prolong shedding of this organism. Conversely, children who carry zoonotic organisms may sometimes be treated to reduce animal exposure, even when the infection is subclinical or expected to be self-limiting, such as a minor skin lesion caused by dermatophytes. During treatment of zoonotic diseases, every precaution should be taken to prevent infection spreading to other people. Professional judgment is required to determine whether to keep your kid at home environment or isolate them in a hospital ward. Factors to consider include the potential severity of the disease in people, the susceptibility of individuals in the household, and the ability of human caregiver(s) to effectively perform barrier nursing, sanitation, and hygiene protocols.

Children who may have contracted a zoonotic disease should be referred to their 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.

Prevention of zoonoses in children

Wash your hands

This may sound like a simple thing to do, but the truth is, many people do not wash their hands when they should, or they do not wash for long enough. A quick rinse under the tap is far from adequate. Use soap and a constant stream of water, scrubbing for a minimum of 20 seconds. Have your kids sing the alphabet song for a good measure of scrubbing time. Wash hands before eating, after touching animals (particularly farm, petting zoo, or exotic species), after removing soiled clothing, after contact with soil, and after using the bathroom. Hand sanitizer is good at reducing the number of bacteria, but is inadequate for removing organic debris, which is where bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites can hide.

Manage the feces

Scoop the litterbox at least every 24 hours. There are particular organisms, including toxoplasma gondii, which are shed in cat feces that do not become infective until after 24 hours. The same is true for various parasites found in dog feces. By scooping the litterbox or cleaning the yard daily, you are greatly reducing the number of parasites available for reinfection.


Avoid contact with wild animals

Wild animals, even cute baby bunnies, can carry several contagious organisms, yet seemingly appear to be healthy. Wild animals are just that, wild.

Have your bird tested for psittacosis

Pet birds can carry an organism called chlamydophila psittaci, also known as psittacosis. This bacterium is shed in feces, ocular secretions, and nasal secretions of birds. Infection in people can be very serious.

Cover the sandbox

Stray or outdoor cats view your sandbox as a luxury sized litterbox. By keeping it covered when not in use, you are preventing cats from eliminating in the sand, thereby reducing the risk of serious conditions caused by hookworms and roundworms.

Use monthly heartworm preventive religiously

Many brands of heartworm preventive also contain dewormers. Dogs and cats are often times re-infected with intestinal parasites, several of which can be removed on a monthly basis by staying up to date on heartworm preventive.

Don’t eat or feed raw or undercooked meat

Cooking meat to the appropriate temperature is a sure step to prevent parasitic infection. Many types of parasitic larvae will inhabit the muscle of certain animals, just waiting to be ingested so they can develop into adult parasites.

Use flea and tick preventives

Fleas and ticks can carry a variety of infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Your dog or cat, being lower to the ground, are at a higher risk of getting flea and tick infestations. By using flea and tick preventives, you are reducing the number of infectious disease carriers that enter your house.


Prevent your dog from drinking contaminated water

Water that has been contaminated by other animals, either by feces or urine, has the potential to contain a multitude of infectious organisms that your dog can then transmit to you. It is a good idea to bring a bowl and fresh water with you on your outdoor excursions.

Keep up on routine veterinary care

Routine veterinary care, including fecal tests, blood tests, and vaccinations, are very important and should not be ignored.  Consider it not only for your pet’s health, but also for the health of you and your family.

Zoonoses can be treated early if properly diagnosed. Make sure to take care of children in such a way that they do not come in unnecessary contact with animals in any way.




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