More than two million people die each year from diseases that spread from animals to people. That’s a shocking number to many people who don’t realize how connected our health is to animal health. World Health Day is a great time to dig into the data and better understand it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than half of all diseases in the world are what we call zoonotic, which simply means they can spread from animals to people or vice versa. In addition to two million human deaths each year, more than two billion (yes, with a “b”) people become ill from these diseases.
Sobering statistics like these illuminate the importance of preventing diseases in animals. We protect animal health because it’s the right thing to do – whether for pets or farm animals – but it’s also the smart thing to do to keep people healthy.
Zoonotic diseases range from Lyme disease to rabies and many more. The organization Health for Animals provides a great overview on its website. It explains that simple steps such as handwashing, mosquito prevention, and cooking techniques will limit your exposure to zoonotic disease, but, ultimately, the most effective method is preventing an animal from contracting the disease altogether.
This reality should pique your interest in disease monitoring and management, which are key. The U.S. animal health sector takes a leading role in monitoring emerging diseases. We work with global animal health organizations to keep an eye on diseases that are spreading, and locations impacted.
This is critical for the 70% of the world’s “extreme poor” who depend on livestock for their livelihood and the countless people who have welcomed a pet into their lives. Five new emerging diseases appear each year; three or four of these will be zoonotic. Most of these will originate in wildlife. That’s why improving wildlife monitoring can better protect people and animals against these diseases.
Animal health tools such as vaccines, proper nutrition and nutritional supplements are important to combat diseases. When we keep animals healthy, the need for further treatments, like antibiotics, decreases. When an animal is vaccinated or has better nutrition, its immune system can naturally resist a bacterial infection. The addition of some nutritional supplements to animal food can help to improve their gut health. These animals will not be as likely to need an antibiotic, which helps preserve antibiotic effectiveness.
The bottom line is this–an entire global network is involved in the monitoring and prevention of zoonotic disease. The facts are undeniable: keeping animals healthy is key to improving human health. World Health Day is a perfect time to celebrate this little-known network of thousands of scientists, analysts, farmers, veterinarians, animal nutritionists and animal health companies working to keep you healthy by supporting animal health. I invite you to join me in saluting these unsung heroes.