On World Zoonoses Day, Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Mark Schipp hashighlighted how the risk of zoonoses, diseases which can be transmitted tohumans from animals, can be reduced through practising good animal biosecurityand hygiene control procedures.

The bacterial disease leptospirosis is an example of a zoonotic disease ofworldwide importance. The disease has been reported in over 150 mammalianspecies around the world, including wildlife, rodents, cattle, pigs, horses,dogs, and people.

The Leptospira bacterium that causes leptospirosis is spread through theurine of infected animals. The urine can get into the soil or water andsurvive there for weeks to months, posing a risk to other animals and people.

“The large number of mice currently affecting areas of eastern Australia isincreasing the risk of leptospirosis, especially for people, cattle and dogs,either through direct contact with rodents, or via contact with stagnantwater, such as puddles and ponds which have been contaminated by rodenturine,” Dr Schipp said.

Although leptospirosis is relatively rare in Australia, it is more common inwarm and moist regions such as north-eastern New South Wales and Queensland,with the risk increasing in areas affected by flooding.

In affected areas, where there is exposure to infected urine of domestic andwild animals, leptospirosis can be an occupational and recreational hazard topeople.

This includes for those working in the agricultural sector, veterinariansdealing with potentially affected animals, or people swimming or wading incontaminated water.

“Avoiding contact with rodent populations and being aware of the potentialdisease risks when working or undertaking recreational activities in affectedareas is important,” Dr Schipp said.

“Veterinarians play a vital role in the control of leptospirosis by educatingfarmers and dog owners about the risks to cattle, pet dogs and to themselves.”

Dairy farmers should ensure their herd is vaccinated, provide protectiveclothing and appropriate barriers in the dairy to protect their staff, andkeep staff and visitors to the dairy to only those essential.

Vaccination of dogs against leptospirosis is an important method of diseasecontrol in this species and may reduce the zoonotic risk to humans.

“Diseases like leptospirosis highlight the importance of a One Health approachin recognising the interconnectedness of people, animals and our sharedenvironment, to addressing the complex challenges of preventing zoonoticdiseases,” Dr Schipp said.

“On World Zoonoses Day as we reflect on the risk of zoonotic diseases, we canall be part of the efforts to minimise and prevent the risks posed to humanand animal health by zoonoses through practicing good hygiene procedures wheninteracting with animals.

“Being aware of how zoonotic diseases can potentially spread from animals topeople can help prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases.”

Fast Facts

  • World Zoonoses Day is celebrated on 6 July 2021 in recognition of the achievements of renowned French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur, who on 6 July 1885 administered the first rabies vaccination.
  • Leptospirosis is a bacterial zoonotic disease which can be spread by the infected urine of rodents and other animals.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognised leptospirosis as an important zoonotic disease globally, that requires active surveillance.
  • For further information on leptospirosis, visit:www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/leptospirosis.aspx www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/110084/leptospirosis-in-cattle-herds.pdf www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/mouse-plague.aspx

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