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Zoonotic Diseases

Zoonotic diseases are infections that are spread between people and animals.

These infections are caused by germs, such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi.

Some can be severe and life threatening, such as rabies, and others may be milder and get better on their own.

Zoonotic diseases are very common. 

More than six of 10 known infectious diseases in people are spread between people and animals.

Backyard Poultry

Chickens feeding on the grass in the backyard

Live poultry can carry bacteria even though they show no signs of being sick. Those germs can then make people sick.


Wild boar walking in the fog

Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that may affect various organs of the body, producing a wide variety of signs and symptoms.


Close up of a puppy with a red collar

Campylobacteriosis is the most commonly reported cause of bacterial diarrhea in Wisconsin.


A person bending down and petting a calf in its pen

Cryptosporidiosis is an illness caused by a single-celled parasite. The most common symptom is diarrhea.

E. coli

A child petted a cow outside.

E. coli is a group of bacteria found in the intestines of people and animals. Most strains are harmless, but some strains can cause illness in humans.

Farm Animals

A young teen stroking a calf on a dairy farm

People who live or work on farms with animals should be aware that even healthy farm animals can pass on diseases to humans through their manure and droppings.


Best friends:young cow and sheep standing together in a field

Giardiasis is an intestinal illness caused by a microscopic parasite. On average it causes 1,200-1,300 reported cases of diarrhea in Wisconsin each year.


Two small white and gray rats on a hand

Hantaviruses are a family of related viruses usually carried by rodents. Anyone can get hantaviruses, but people who have contact with rodents or rodent-infested areas are at highest risk of getting sick.


A prairie dog.

Plague is an illness usually spread to humans through the bites of infected fleas. Although a handful of people in the U. S. become infected each year, plague has never been reported in Wisconsin.


A cockatiel.

Psittacosis is a disease caused by a microorganism. It is usually transmitted to humans from birds.

Q Fever

A child standing by a fence with a goat inside.

Q Fever is a disease caused by a bacteria. Although a variety of animals may be infected, cattle, sheep, and goats most often carry the bacteria. 


A brown bat with wings spread out.

The rabies virus is transmitted from infected animals to humans (typically by a bite) and is almost always fatal once symptoms appear.

Racoon Roundworm

A raccoon sits on a bird bath surrounded by Black-eyed Susan flowers.

This is a large roundworm parasite that lives in the intestines of raccoons. About half of all raccoons tested in Wisconsin have been found to be infected. 


Baby chick, newly hatched out of egg

Salmonella bacteria can be found everywhere in the environment. In Wisconsin, Salmonella is a common cause of gastrointestinal illness

Ticks and Mosquitoes

Adult applying insect repellent to a child at a park

Ticks and mosquitoes can spread illnesses to people. Preventing bites from ticks and mosquitoes is the key to avoiding these illnesses.


A young rabbit sitting on its hind feet facing sideway outside

Tularemia can spread through contact with wild animals such as hares, rabbits, squirrels, muskrats, beavers, and deer. It is also known as rabbit fever.  

Typhus Fever

Cat looking upwards

Typhus fever is an illness spread through contact with small mammals that have fleas. People get sick when infected flea poop is rubbed into cuts or scrapes in the skin.


Six pigs in a farm pen outside.

Yersiniosis is relatively uncommon, with about 35 cases being reported in Wisconsin annually. Most people who get sick become infected by eating contaminated food.

Resources from the Department of Health Services (DHS)

Safely Caring for a Cat, P-03340 (PDF)

Questions about zoonotic diseases? Contact us!
Phone: 608-267-9003 | Fax: 608-261-4976


Last revised March 25, 2024