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Communicable diseases between animals and humans

Some diseases can be transmitted between animals and humans. They are known as zoonotic diseases and can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.

Disease transmission

An infected person or animal can spread disease, whether or not they show symptoms. Diseases can be transmitted via:

  • Direct contact with the skin or mucous membranes
  • Inhalation of airborne particles from contaminated dust or droplets
  • Insect bites and stings, wounds or animal bites
  • Ingestion, from contact between contaminated hands or objects and the mouth

Diseases spread to humans through food such as meat or raw milk are referred to as food poisoning (French only).

List of common diseases, by transmission route

The following is a list of diseases commonly found in animals that can be passed to humans, grouped according to their typical transmission routes. Refer to the page of each disease to learn more about the various ways it can be transmitted.

Via direct contact with the skin or mucous membranes:

Via inhalation of airborne particles from contaminated dust or droplets:

Via insect bites and stings, wounds or animal bites: 

Via  ingestion, from contact between contaminated hands or objects and the mouth:

Infection prevention

Infected animals can spread disease within households and through animal and human populations. Occasionally, zoonotic diseases can also be introduced into households or farms by infected human beings.

Day-to-day protection

The following are everyday steps individuals can take to protect themselves from zoonotic diseases:

  • Wash your hands with soap and hot water each time you come into contact with an animal, their feces or their litter.
  • Block animals from access to the toilet bowl or other contaminated items.
  • Dispose of feces and urine quickly and properly.
  • Avoid kissing animals.
  • Clean all wounds and scratches with soap and hot water and cover the area with a bandage or dressing.
  • Refer to our advice on how to protect yourself against and prevent rabies in case of animal bites and scratches.
  • Make sure to protect yourself from mosquito and tick bites when outdoors, as they can be vectors of diseases.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with other precautions as well, since they can vary between diseases and transmission methods.

General notice

People at greater risk from zoonotic diseases

Some people, such as pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, are at greater risk from zoonotic diseases. These individuals should avoid contact with animals or strictly follow prevention measures to minimize risks.

Consult a professional

If you are worried about the health of your animals, please consult a veterinarian.

Certain zoonotic diseases are more common in humans than in animals. If you have been infected by a disease, make sure to follow your health care provider’s advice to avoid the risk of spreading it to others. Some diseases may require you to protect your animals as well as your loved ones.

If you have any concerns about your health, call Info-Santé at 811. Make sure to disclose any interactions you may have had with an animal during your call or when speaking to your doctor.

Preventing disease on the farm

Observe these basic precautions when in the presence of livestock or their manure:

  • Avoid eating, smoking or touching your mouth.
  • Avoid drinking raw milk.
  • Keep an eye on any children and put away any items that may be at risk of being contaminated, such as strollers, toys and pacifiers.
  • Clean or change your shoes at the exit, then wash your hands.

Try as much as possible to restrict access to your facilities to essential visitors, such as veterinarians and feed suppliers, and make sure they apply sound prevention and biosecurity measures This hyperlink will open in a new window. (French only). Farmers who detect a disease among their livestock should apply the appropriate sanitary practices This hyperlink will open in a new window. (French only) to prevent its spread.

As an animal farmer, it is your responsibility to look after your own health as well as the health of your visitors, your consumers and the general public.

Educate farmhands on workplace health and safety measures to help prevent animal‑transmitted diseases This hyperlink will open in a new window. (French only).

For agri-tourism or small farms open to the public, please follow our recommendations on preventative measures for events involving animal gatherings This hyperlink will open in a new window. (PDF, 3 Mo – French only).

Disease surveillance

The Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation’s veterinarians closely monitor diseases that can be transmitted between humans and animals and carry out prevention and control activities through networks such as the réseau aviaire (French only). They also occasionally detect novel zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19 and monkeypox, that may threaten public health. They work alongside veterinary practitioners, public health officials and other partners.

This partnership is inspired by the “One Health” approach This hyperlink will open in a new window., which aims to sustainably optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems in recognition of their interdependence.

Last update: July 11, 2023

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