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Sentinels of Health: Threats from Vector Borne and Zoonotic (animal to human) Disease

“Ticks can make us sick!”

Zoo animals, backyard wildlife, pets, and livestock-- all serve the public as valuable "First Alert" systems for emerging infectious diseases. A crow dying outside the gates of the Bronx Zoo was the first known case of West Nile virus in the United States. Sick raccoons or foxes seen in your backyard can be sentinels, warning of an outbreak of rabies.

Bats have long served informally as public health surveillance systems for rabies. Now USGS scientists are working together with colleagues at Colorado State University and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control studying bats that inhabit homes to determine exactly what the role of bats is in the transmission of rabies.

Prairie dogs are also valuable wildlife informants, alerting us to the occurrence and spread of plague. The bacteria that causes plague persists in the environment at low levels, and are carried from prairie dog to prairie dog by fleas. Periodically the disease escalates into epidemics/epizootics when humans are bitten by fleas that carry the disease.

Even our pets can be sentinels! Ticks can carry pathogens that are the causes of Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis or babesiosis. Both pets and people are afflicted with these neurological or blood diseases.

USGS scientists are studying the wildlife-human disease interconnections, and informing the nation to these diseases as our wildlife alert us to the spread of disease across the nation.

Links to USGS Sentinel Research Projects

More Information

Human Health Home
GeoHeatlh Newsletter

Air, Dust, and Soil contaminants and Pathogens
Drinking Water Contaminants
Consumption of Bioaccumulative Contaminants
Vector Borne and Zoonotic (animal to human) Disease
Contact With Recreational Waters
Animal Sentinels of Human Health

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URL: http://health.usgs.gov/sentinels/zoonotic_vector-borne.html
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Page Last Modified: 05-May-2016@11:48