News & Views

Zoonotic Disease

DC
BY Douglas Cameron
Health & Safety
BG Orange

We all know under the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the owners or organisers have a duty of care. I have just finished an investigation where three young children were diagnosed with salmonella. This was eventually traced back to the children handling animals in a pet shop. The parents had not thought about the potential public health risk and that similar hazards exist for the transfer of animal disease.

Amenity premises and activities open to the general public

The main zoonotic organisms commonly encountered in these situations are VTEC O157, cryptosporidiosis and salmonella but may also include other diseases such as Q fever.

Pet shops and similar animal retail outlets

There may be a greater risk of exposure to exotic or unusual pathogenic diseases because of the wide variety of animals kept in some of these premises, and their origin.

Primary agricultural premises, commercial farms, abattoirs, cutting plants, feed mills, and other commercial premises

Risks to the wider public are usually via food such as through the sale of unpasteurised milk, farm gate sales or from presence of onsite Bed & Breakfast accommodation. However, commercial farms may open to the public for events such as ‘Open Farm Sunday’ or for lambing weekends. The public could be at significant risk if they are allowed access to animals without the appropriate hygiene precautions being in place.

Occupational and leisure exposure to Zoonoses

These include occupational or recreational exposure to zoonoses that mainly affect people who work in or engage with animal environments. For example, sewage workers may be at increased risk of infection with leptospirosis, or bat rehabilitators may be exposed to european bat lyssavirus. In addition, exposure to a variety of zoonoses can be through leisure pursuits such as canoeing, open water swimming, or walking in tick infested habitats.

Domestic settings

Within the domestic setting, zoonotic infection can be acquired from food, pets, pests or infected people. People live in close contact with a wide range of animal species as pets and therefore zoonotic infections in domestic households can arise from various sources. Infections range from the more common (Campylobacter or Salmonella infections), to the rarer (hantavirus, Corynebacterium ulcerans and meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA].

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