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Is coronavirus a zoonotic disease?

18 July 2020

Md Billal Hossen :
The term zoonosis is derived from a Greek word where zoon means 'animal' and nosos means 'sickness'. In a nutshell, it is the infection of non-human animal especially vertebrate. Zoonosis or zoonotic disease is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen (virus, bacteria, parasites, prion etc) that is transmitted from non-human animal to a human. A study conducted by Taylor LH et. alrevealed that among 1,415 pathogens known to infect humans, 61% were zoonotic. On the other hand, the most emerging infectious disease of 21st century such COVID-19, Ebola virus, Bird flu, Swine flu, MERS, SARS virus etc was zoonotic. So the deadly effect of zoonotic disease is easily imaginable. Nowadays, the world is facing an unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 pandemic which is thought to be a zoonotic disease. Presumably, it was derived from animal especially from bat, pangolins, felines, minks etc. All the evidence published yet,suggests that coronavirus is a zoonotic disease. That means coronavirus can be transmitted from animal to human.
How do the germs transmitted from animal to human?
There are several mode of transmission. They are described below-
Direct transmission
Coming into contact with blood, mucous, saliva, urine feces or other body fluids of infected animals.
Indirect transmission
Coming into contact with animal living room and objects or surface that have been contaminated with pathogen.
Vector borne transmission
Being bitten by mosquito, flea or other insects.
Foodborne transmission    
Eating and drinking unsafe food such as unpasteurized (raw) milk, undercooked meat or eggs, or raw fruits and vegetable that is contaminated with infectious microorganism derived from infected animal. Study revealed that the most significant zoonotic pathogens causing foodborne diseases are Escherichia coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, Caliciviridae, and Salmonella etc.
Waterborne transmission
Drinking water contaminated with feces or body fluids of infected animal.

Who are at risk?
The most vulnerable group such as pregnant mother, U-5 children, HIV infected person, adults whose age is 65 or higher and people with noxious immune system are at higher risk of becoming infected.
What factors are increasing zoonosis emergence?
According to UNEP frontiers repot 2016, there are some factors that contribute to zoonosis emergence. They are as follows-
l Deforestation and land use changes
l Illegal and poorly regulated wildlife trade
l Intensified agriculture and livestock production
l Antimicrobial change
l Climate change
How can you protect yourself from zoonotic disease?
There are some simple ways to protect yourself from the zoonotic disease. They are-
l Frequently wash your hands with soap and running water immediately after returning from animal farm, hatchery or ranching.
l Handle food safely
l Use insect repellents to keep mosquitos, fleas, and ticks away.
l Avoid being animal biting or scratching
l When you are in close contact with your pet, don't touch your mouth, face or eyes. And also avoid eating during this time.
l The living room of animal should be cleaned with disinfectant regularly
l Be conscious about zoonotic disease at home.
Precisely it is crystal clear to us that coronavirus is a zoonotic disease. It is time to fight against this disease. That is why, we must need to be aware of zoonotic transmission of disease to protect ourselves from deadly disease like COVID-19. Awareness is the best policy to prevent zoonotic disease.
(Md Billal Hossen is a MS student, Department of Applied Nutrition and Food Technology
Islamic University. Email: [email protected]).

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