Viral Zoonotic Infections

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  • 0:01 Viral Zoonotic Infections
  • 0:52 Rabies
  • 3:05 Other Viral Zoonotic…
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, we'll go over the most important viral zoonotic disease, what forms it takes in animals, and some other viral zoonotic infections of lesser note.

Viral Zoonotic Infections

Colds, flus, and other blues are caused by viruses, extremely small infectious agents that only replicate in living hosts. As you well know, some viruses cause minor temporary problems like the common cold. Then there's the opposite end of the spectrum, viruses that cause terrible life-long problems like HIV.

This same pattern repeats for animals as well. Actually, one of the worst possible viruses an animal can get can be transmitted to a human and be equally dangerous to people! How lucky for us! It's so dangerous that every state legally requires that many pets (namely dogs, cats, and ferrets) be vaccinated against this virus, not only for their own good, but mainly for the good of the people. There are very few exceptions to this vaccination requirement.

Let's get to the most important viral zoonotic infection right away then, although we'll cover some other ones at the end.


The terrifying disease caused by the virus against which many pets must be vaccinated is called rabies, a disease caused by the rabies virus that leads to insomnia, hallucinations, difficulty swallowing, and certain death in people unless caught very early. This virus is so dangerous that there are only a handful of cases in history where a person was able to beat it back after neurological symptoms had begun.

The rabies virus is most commonly transmitted from an animal to a human through the bite of an infected animal because the rabies virus is secreted in an animal's saliva. It's therefore very important that if any animal bites you, you talk to your doctor right away.

In some cases, the doctor may suggest you get what's known as post-exposure prophylaxis, a series of shots given to a person after they were put at risk of infection, in this case, by the rabies virus. Getting such a treatment can almost guarantee that you will survive if you have been infected by the rabies virus. Not getting it or getting it too late will almost guarantee you will die if you were infected.

Animals who bite a person or have been bitten by a potentially rabid animal have their own set of problems. Depending on the circumstances, they will need to be monitored for signs of rabies or, in some cases, be euthanized so their brain can be sent off to a lab to be tested for the rabies virus.

Animals who get rabies can experience one of two forms of the disease:

  • Furious rabies, which is exactly as it sounds: a form of rabies where the animal is very aggressive and tries to bite and attack animals and people without provocation.
  • Dumb (a.k.a. paralytic) rabies, a form of rabies that causes weakness, paralysis, and an unusual docility. Animals with this form of rabies are rarely aggressive, but if you see a wild animal that should normally be running away from you not trying to do so, you should be careful not to think it's trying to be friendly. Bambi might look friendly but it might also have some rabies.

Other Viral Zoonotic Infections

Although rabies is the most important viral disease that can be passed from an animal to a human, it's not the only one.

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