Because humans and animals share the same dependence on clean water and air, and can share diseases, it is important that you be aware of and protect yourself from these disease risks when recreating outdoors. Diseases that humans and animals can share are called zoonotic diseases. These diseases are usually rare and come in different forms. Some zoonotic diseases are transmitted by vectors, such as ticks (tick-borne disease) or mosquitos (mosquito borne disease), while others can be obtained directly from the environment (histoplasmosis), such as from contaminated water (waterborne disease and Harmful Algal Blooms, or direct contact with animals that have died from the disease, such as tularemia (tularemia). Some zoonotic diseases, especially rabies (rabies), West Nile Virus (mosquito borne disease), and plague (plague), are not a natural part of our ecosystems (non-native) and can have devastating impacts on wildlife and human health. Others (hantavirus) may be native, but are impacted by changes to the environment. Simple, easy steps can protect you from these diseases so you can enjoy the great outdoors safely:
  • Wear insect repellent when recreating in areas with mosquitos, ticks, or rodents
  • Wear long pants when weather allows and closed-toed shoes
  • Appreciate wildlife from a distance, and never touch or approach live or dead wildlife
  • Tell a park ranger if you see sick, dead, or strangely behaving wildlife
  • Keep pets leashed and current on flea and tick preventative and vaccinations
  • Supervise children when playing in wild areas
  • Never pitch a tent on or near rodent burrows
  • Only drink water from safe sources and treat water when needed
  • See your doctor if you develop a high fever or other signs of illness and inform them of any travel history
It is important to remember that these diseases are preventable, most are very rare, and being outdoors in nature can have tremendous health benefits, from increased physical activity to decreased stress and anxiety. Additionally, more and more studies are showing that when ecosystems are healthy, with more native species present and natural processes protected, there is less zoonotic disease in the ecosystem. So protecting these special places and keeping the environment and wildlife healthy can help keep us healthy too—this is One Health in action.

One Health and Disease

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    Last updated: March 27, 2018