ICAR-National Research Centre on Equines, Hisar-125001, India
Zoonotic diseases are the infectious diseases that can be transmitted to human beings and vice versa from animals either directly or indirectly. These diseases can be caused by a range of organisms including bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. Viral diseases are highly infectious and capable of causing pandemics as evidenced by outbreaks of diseases like Ebola, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, West Nile, SARS-Corona, Nipah, Hendra, Avian influenza and Swine influenza.
Many viruses affecting equines are also important human pathogens. Diseases like Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), Western equine encephalitis (WEE), and Venezuelan-equine encephalitis (VEE) are highly infectious and can be disseminated as aerosols. A large number of horses and human cases of VEE with fatal encephalitis have continuously occurred in Venezuela and Colombia. Vesicular stomatitis (VS) is prevalent in horses in North America and has zoonotic potential causing encephalitis in children. Hendra virus (HeV) causes respiratory and neurological disease and death in man and horses. Since its first outbreak in 1994, 53 disease incidents have been reported in Australia. West Nile fever has spread to many newer territories across continents during recent years.
It has been described in Africa, Europe, South Asia, Oceania and North America. Japanese encephalitis has expanded horizons from Asia to western Pacific region including the eastern Indonesian archipelago, Papua New Guinea and Australia. Rabies is rare in horses but still a public health concern being a fatal disease. Equine influenza is historically not known to affect humans but many scientists have mixed opinions. Equine viral diseases of zoonotic importance and their impact on animal and human health have been elaborated in this article.
Equine viral diseases though restricted to certain geographical areas have huge impact on equine and human health. Diseases like West Nile fever, Hendra, VS, VEE, EEE, JE, Rabies have the potential for spread and ability to cause disease in human. Equine influenza is historically not known to affect humans but some experimental and observational evidence show that H3N8 influenza virus has infected man. Despite our pursuit of understanding the complexity of the vector-host-pathogen mediating disease transmission, it is not possible to make generalized predictions concerning the degree of impact of disease emergence. A targeted, multidisciplinary effort is required to understand the risk factors for zoonosis and apply the interventions necessary to control it.
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