Happy World Veterinary Day! The World Veterinary Association created World Veterinary Day in 2000 as an annual celebration of the veterinary profession, to be celebrated every year on the last Saturday in April. Each year, the WVA and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) select a theme for the event, and this year’s is vector-borne diseases with zoonotic potential.
Zoonotic diseases — diseases that can be passed between animals and humans — are a major concern throughout the world, and veterinarians are at the front lines of fighting these diseases and protecting animal and human health. We may think of the agents of zoonotic diseases — be they bacteria, viruses, or parasites — as infecting only wild animals, but pets and other domestic animals can be infected, too.
Vector-borne zoonotic diseases are a special category of zoonoses. These diseases are caused by infectious agents that are spread by vectors — most commonly, biting insects such as mosquitoes and fleas, and ticks — and are an important example of the interdependence that exists among vectors, animal hosts, environmental conditions, disease agents, and susceptible human populations. Effective control and prevention of vector-borne zoonotic diseases will require a One Health approach — one in which veterinarians play a vital role.
What should animal owners know about vector-borne and other zoonotic diseases? We offer online resources on a number of these diseases that can be found here in the USA, including Lyme disease and plague, as well as a brochure focused on preventing zoonotic diseases in general (available in English and Spanish). Perhaps the most important take-home message is to keep your animals healthy. Take your pets to the veterinarian for regular preventive care, including vaccinations and flea, tick, and intestinal parasite preventives. Livestock need veterinary care, too. Your veterinarian can discuss appropriate vaccines and other preventive care routines for all of your animals to protect their health — and yours.