Animal Viruses Pathogenic for Humans


Diseases and infections that are transmitted between vertebrate animals and man are known as zoonoses. Nearly, two‐thirds of infectious diseases known to affect mankind are zoonotic. Many of these zoonoses are caused by viruses – some of these are rare, but others are of great epidemiological importance based on high mortality and morbidity and global distribution. New viral zoonoses continue to emerge from all parts of the world, particularly as wildlife and humans come into closer contact, given the present‐day dynamics of global development. Human Immunodeficiency virus is one of the most profound examples of zoonosis which through a species jump has established in the human population and has gained worldwide distribution. Important emerging viral zoonotic diseases include Avian Influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome, West Nile fever and hantavirus infection with pulmonary syndrome.

Key Concepts:

  • Many viruses can be transmitted from vertebrate animals to humans and cause disease. This is known as zoonoses.

  • Close to two thirds of infectious diseases that affect mankind are zoonoses.

  • Most emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in origin.

  • Viral pathogens are more likely to emerge as zoonoses due to their propensity to adapt and mutate.

  • Changes in human ecology contribute to emerging zoonoses from wildlife.

Keywords: zoonoses; zoonotic diseases; emerging diseases; animal viruses; viral diseases; One Health

Figure 1.

The Eqyptian slit‐faced bat (Nycteris thebaica) implicated as a host of the Duvenhage virus, a rabies‐related lyssavirus that has been associated with rare human rabies cases in Southern Africa.

Figure 2.

Community members in a KwaZulu Natal village in South Africa taking their pets for rabies vaccination during a vaccination campaign. Rabies can be effectively controlled in dogs through sustained and well planned vaccination programs.



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World Health Organization (1959) Zoonoses: Second Report of the Joint Who/Fao Expert Committee, Who Technical Report Series No 169. Geneva: WHO.

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Nel, Louis H, and Weyer, Jacqueline(Nov 2014) Animal Viruses Pathogenic for Humans. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001079.pub3]