human deaths linked to Zoonoses

Human Deaths Linked to Zoonoses

Author: Animal Save Movement

About 60% of human diseases and 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. 

Most are caused by harmful germs from farmed animals such as cows, pigs, chickens, goats, sheep and camels. Others are from wildlife such as bats, rats and civet cats. These germs can spread to people and cause illness and are known as zoonotic diseases or zoonoses.

The current COVID-19 pandemic strikes just 100 years after the Spanish Flu pandemic which infected a third of the global population and killed 50 million people. Twenty years ago, the Swine Flu pandemic claimed 284,000 lives. The new coronavirus, COVID-19 was first detected in China with the epicentre in Wuhan, China. It has crippled the global economy, global travel and tourism, businesses and healthcare systems worldwide and the situation is continually evolving with outbreaks in over 200 countries and territories. Many countries have taken extreme measures to try to mitigate the spread of infection including closing their borders and mandating 14 day quarantines to all travelers returning abroad. 

The source of the infection is suspected to have originated from infected wildlife at Wuhan's largest wet market, a gory arena where dead and live animals are slaughtered and sold. The widely unregulated wildlife trade is a breeding ground for many deadly diseases including SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) which originated from civet cats in China. The Wuhan wet market, which has been temporarily shut down, was occupied by hundreds of vendors who sold live fish, turtles, snakes, various sea creatures, rabbits, wolf pups, civet cats, dogs, bats, bamboo rats, pigs, chickens and others. China and other countries have now begun to shut down the wildlife trade in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19. Despite their efforts, the virus has spread to 211 countries within months and has already infected over 100 million  individuals worldwide as of April 30, 2020 and claimed over two million lives. Approximately 10-15% of cases progress to severe disease, and about 5% become critically ill. The fatality rates seem to be highest in those who are in their 70s and 80s, and individuals with underlying conditions and chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.

Deadly diseases spreading from animals to humans is not new. If you look below, you will find some of the killer zoonotic diseases and there are hundreds more including Salmonellosis, E. Coli, HIV, Giardiasis, Japanese Encephalitis, Leprosy, and Tuberculosis. The list will only continue to grow if humans do not change their dietary habits. Contrary to what most people believe, eating animal flesh is not healthy. In fact, it poses some of the most serious dietary health risks, some of which are fatal. 

Adopting a plant-based diet not only drastically reduces and in some cases eliminates our risk of zoonotic diseases, it is also supportive of a much more robust immune system. A whole foods plant-based diet equips us with the nutrients essential to fight off infections and to prevent chronic disease. Many nutrients such as Vitamin C, Vitamin A, quercetin, magnesium, bioflavonoids and phytonutrients are found primarily in plants. 

List of Zoonotic Diseases

Zoonotic DiseasesDescription
Bacillus anthraci
Occurs naturally in both non-human and human animals in Asia, southern Europe, sub-Sahelian Africa, parts of Australia and Uzbekistan.

Caused by gram positive bacteria and its spores that can reside in soil for up to 44 years. Eaten by sheep and cattle, it can then spread to humans most commonly at slaughterhouses, tanneries and wool-sorting via the skin (95%). Not spread from human to human.
Via skin: 10% fatal
Via lungs: 100% fatal
Via ingestion: >50% fatal
Bird Flu (H5N1 Avian Influenza)Caused by close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments.

Highly infectious and causes severe respiratory illness.
Mortality rate is 60%.
BrucellosisCaused by Brucella bacteria. Infection is caused by contact with the body fluids of an infected animal (blood, placenta, urine, fetuses), by consumption of raw (unpasteurized) dairy products and by airborne transmission in animal pens, labs and slaughterhouses.
Bubonic PlagueFound in tropics and subtropics including remote parts of China, Peru and Democratic Republic of China.

Caused by a bacteria Yersinia pestis and is carried by rodents infested with fleas. Epidemic in the 1300s and still exists today.
Fatal within 24 hours from pneumonia if not treated by antibiotics.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (human form of mad cow disease) Caused by eating beef products contaminated with central nervous system tissue, such as brain and spinal cord, from cattle infected with mad cow disease.
100% fatal
Coronavirus COVID-19Originating in Wuhan, China with origin most likely related to the consumption of infected wildlife (bats, snakes, civet cats).

Infected over 3 million people. Pandemic started in 2019, affecting over 200 countries.

Fatality rate is estimated by WHO to be 3.4%
CysticercosisParasitic tissue infection caused by larval cysts of the tapeworm Taenia solium. These larval cysts infect brain, muscle, or other tissue, and are a major cause of adult onset seizures in most low-income countries.

Occurs globally but more commonly in Latin America, Asia, and Africa that have poor sanitation and free-ranging pigs.
EbolaWest Africa - Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Gabon. Most recent outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, internal and external haemorrhaging.
Hepatitis E Worldwide but particularly East and South Asia. This virus causes liver disease and infects 20 million people annually, killing 40,000-70,000 people and causing 3,000 stillbirths. The most common cause is due to undercooked pork and pork liver.
Listeria monocytogenes
Caused by a bacteria commonly found in processed meats and unpasteurized milk products.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)First reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and found in the Arabian Peninsula (Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen). This coronavirus causes severe respiratory illness, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath
MERS-CoV came from an animal source. Studies show that direct contact with camels is a risk factor for human infection with MERS-CoV.
Fatality: 40%
RabiesRabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals. The rabies virus is usually transmitted through a bite. The most common animals that transmit rabies include bats, coyotes, raccoons, foxes, skunks and stray dogs, but all animals can transmit rabies.
Fatality is near 100%
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)Caused by a type of coronavirus. The epidemic in 2003 affected 26 countries and resulted in over 8000 cases. It originated in bats and civet cats from Guangdong, China from consumption of infected animals
Fatality: 10%
Spanish Flu
Caused the worst pandemic in recent history in 1918-1920, infecting 500 million people worldwide.
It was an H1N1 virus of avian origin.
Swine Flu
influenza A
The pandemic in 2009 to 2010 was first detected in the U.S.A.
151,700 to 575,400 people died from swine flu in the first year of the pandemic. It is caused by a reassortment of the swine, avian and human influenza and infects only pigs and humans.
Toxoplasma gondii
A parasite that is found worldwide and affects millions of people. It is contracted mainly from eating undercooked, contaminated meat (especially pork, lamb, and venison) or shellfish (eg. oysters, clams or mussels). It can cause flu-like symptoms, still birth, birth defects, ocular disease and severe infection in immunocompromised individuals.


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BC Centre for Disease Control.Brucellosis
Bean, M. (2020, March 12). A look back at swine flu: 8 facts about the world's last pandemic in 2009.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1918 Pandemic (H1N1 virus).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cysticercosis.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Toxoplasmosis.
Institute of Medicine (US) Forum on Emerging Infections; Burroughs T, Knobler S, Lederberg J, editors. The Emergence of Zoonotic Diseases: Understanding the Impact on Animal and Human Health: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2002. 2, The Importance of Zoonotic Diseases.
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Ther Adv Infect Dis. 2019 Jan-Dec; 6: 2049936119837162. Hepatitis E: an underestimated emerging threat.
Woodward, A. (2020, Feb 26). Both the new coronavirus and SARS outbreaks likely started in Chinese wet markets. Photos show what the markets look like.

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