08:42am Monday 13 July 2020

Zoonoses (Infections acquired from animals)

This may happen directly through work (eg farmers) or   leisure activities such as keeping pets or indirectly through contact with food and water.

Zoonotic diseases can be transmitted to humans in various ways which vary depending on the specific disease.  In addition to direct contact with animals they may be transmitted by:

  • transmission from person to person
  • inhalation of spores / contaminated dust
  • consumption of unpasteurised milk / dairy products or undercooked/contaminated food
  • consumption of contaminated water
  • skin exposure to spores / contaminated water
  • animal or insect bites/scratches

PHA undertakes surveillance of a range of zoonotic infections.

Epidemiological Data

Taken from Zoonosis Report 2012, DEFRA, September 2013
* provisional
1. UK national who visited South Africa
2. 137 of these cases were associated with one outbreak
3. Yersinia species is not typed in Northern Ireland. No clinical presentations compatible with plague have been noted.

England and Wales epidemiological data can be viewed at: http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/Zoonoses/EpidemiologicalData/

Table of Zoonotic Diseases and Organisms

For further information on Zoonotic Diseases and Organisms click here.

Zoonoses acquired at work

Many zoonotic infections may be contracted at work usually through direct contact with infected animals. The true incidence of zoonoses acquired at work in the UK is unknown for most infections.

Specific regulations apply in the workplace to prevent, control the spread of, and report zoonotic infections.  These are detailed below:

Regulations applicable in the occupational setting

1. Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSSH) 2002.

Micro-organisms which are hazardous to human health are included as substances hazardous to health in these regulations. As potentially zoonotic pathogens may be present wherever there are animals, an assessment of the hazard and its associated risk must be undertaken in such situations, and appropriate controls put in place. Detailed advice on this process is available from the HSE  – http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/fivesteps.htm

2. Reporting of Injuries diseases and dangerous occurrences (RIDDOR) 1985 www.hse.gov.uk/riddor/riddor.htm

Reporting accidents and ill health at work is a legal requirement, and included under the legislation are occupationally-acquired zoonoses.

Further information on zoonoses reportable to RIDDOR – http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAweb&HPAwebStandard/HPAweb_C/1195733767081

Occupational settings

A wide variety of occupations and premises exist where contact with animals or their products may occur. These include professions such as abattoir workers, farmers and farm workers and forestry workers.


For further information on Zoonoses see:

Public Health England – http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/Zoonoses/

Human Animal Infections and Risk Surveillance (HAIRS) – http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/EmergingInfections/HAIRS/

Department of Department of Agriculture and Rural Development – http://www.dardni.gov.uk/zoonotic-diseases

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