Sciensano is responsible for the epidemiological surveillance of several zoonotic diseases. Because this is a diverse group of diseases, different services within Sciensano are involved to ensure correct and adapted follow-up. For some zoonotic diseases, Sciensano is also the National Reference Centre (human) or the National Reference Laboratory (animal).
Zoonotic diseases (or zoonoses) are infectious diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans, via direct or indirect contacts. They represent a major public health problem around the world.
What is a zoonosis or zoonotic disease?
A zoonotic disease (or zoonosis) is a disease or infection caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses or fungi that is transmitted between vertebrate animals and humans.
Transmission occurs through:
- direct contact (with the saliva, blood, urine or other body fluids of an infected animal)
- indirect contact (contact with contaminated air droplets, objects or surfaces or through contaminated food or water)
- bites of infected arthropod vectors (see also vector-borne diseases).
Due to our close relationship with animals in agriculture, as companions and in the natural environment, zoonoses comprise a large proportion of existing and emerging diseases in humans around the world.
Examples of zoonotic diseases are cat scratch disease, brucellosis, hantavirus disease, rabies, leptospirosis, anthrax, tularaemia, psittacosis, Q fever, echinococcosis, avian and swine influenza, etc.