6 Infectious Diseases Spread From Animals

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Humans and animals share a close relationship, and in some instances, we even share diseases. Here are some of the more common infectious disease that animals can spread to humans.


Recent research suggests that the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) may have come from a bat in Saudi Arabia near where the first person was infected. Blood tests revealed that that bat had a 100 percent genetic match with the MERS infection. But, researchers say the bats likely infected other animals, such as camels, which then infected humans.

Avian Flu

Avian flu or bird flu is a virus that has caused outbreaks in domestic poultry in Asia and the Middle East. Though it doesn’t usually infect humans, it can occur, and nearly 600 human cases have been reported in 15 countries since 2003. This strain is called H5N1, and a newer strain called H7N9 has been reported in China in recent months.

Swine flu

In 2009 a strain of swine flu, called H1N1, spread and infected many people around the world. It gets its name from the fact that it’s a virus found in pigs. Generally, people don’t get it, but when they do, the symptoms are similar to the to those of the common human flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A swine flu vaccine is now available.


Rabies is a disease caused by the rabies virus, and both wild animals and domestic animals can pass it to humans. Early signs include fever and headache, but the nervous system is quickly affected with symptoms such as confusion, sleepiness and agitation. Once someone has these symptoms, they usually will not survive.

Cat scratch fever

Cat scratch disease is caused by the bacteria Bartonella henselae, and is usually transferred when a person is bitten or scratched by a cat. Kittens are more likely to have the disease, but cats that carry the bacteria show no signs of illness. Symptoms are mild infection at the point of injury, swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache and loss of appetite.


Plague, infamous for wiping out a third of the population in Europe in the Middle Ages, is a rare bacterial disease caused by Yersinia pestis. The disease is usually passed to humans from the bite of an infected flea. It is possible, however, for people to get the disease from an infected animal, such as rodents and cats, but that’s rare.