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Saving Lives by Taking a One Health Approach: Connecting Human, Animal, and Environmental Health
Source: | Author:toroivd | Published time: 2023-09-12 | 656 Views | Share:

More than half of all infections that people can get can be spread by animals. Diseases like rabies, Salmonella, and West Nile virus infections are examples of zoonotic diseases (or zoonoses)—diseases that can be shared between animals and people.

Every year, tens of thousands of Americans will get sick from diseases spread between animals and people. Animals can sometimes serve as early warning signs of potential illness in people. For example, birds often die of West Nile virus before people get sick with West Nile virus fever.

CDC’s One Health Office recognizes that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and our shared environment. A One Health approach encourages collaborative efforts of many experts (like disease detectives, laboratorians, physicians, and veterinarians) working across human, animal, and environmental health to improve the health of people and animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife.


Human, Animal, and Environmental Health are Linked

Cows graze next to a lettuce field. Cows can carry E. coli but still look healthy.

E. coli from cow manure in the nearby farm 

can contaminate the lettuce field.

People eat contaminated lettuce and

can become infected with E. coli. 

Serious illness or sometimes death can result.

What The One Health Office Is Doing In The U.S.

  • Working with multiple partners to educate rural youth in agricultural organizations like 4-H and the Future Farmers of America about preventing the spread of diseases shared between people and animals like zoonotic influenza viruses. These newly formed One Health teams have reached thousands of young people and their families in states across rural America. One important outcome was the rapid response to an outbreak of flu in people who had attended agricultural fairs in Ohio and Michigan. These new One Health teams helped pinpoint the source of the illness—infected swine exhibited at the fairs

  • Responding to outbreaks and public health emergencies, such as examining the risk of Ebola and Zika viruses to pets and other animals.

  • Protecting Americans by preventing diseases they can get from their pets like Salmonella infection and rat bite fever. Due to an increasing number of outbreaks, the One Health Office is leading the Zoonoses Education Coalition. This public-private partnership is developing evidence-based recommendations to prevent diseases for pet owners, breeders, and stores. These recommendations were used during an outbreak of Seoul virus that was spread to people by pet rats. The One Health Office shares tips about how to stay healthy while enjoying pets on CDC’s Healthy Pets, Healthy People website.


What The One Health Office Is Doing Around The World

Diseases can spread around the world very quickly, so it’s important for CDC’s One Health Office to work closely with other countries to build strong partnerships with human, animal, and environmental health organizations. This protects Americans from illnesses that cross borders and affect travelers.

Globally, the One Health Office is taking a strategic, targeted approach to control and prevent infectious diseases. For example, experts from the One Health Office lead One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization Workshops so that countries can focus limited resources on their top zoonotic diseases of greatest national concern. Zoonotic diseases commonly prioritized include viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola virus and Rift Valley fever, zoonotic influenza viruses, rabies, and anthrax.

  • Workshop participants include a wide-ranging group of people who protect health—of people, animals, or the environment—and they identify a country’s top 5 diseases to target for One Health collaborations.

  • Workshop participants develop strategies to address the newly prioritized zoonotic diseases. For example, having a dog vaccination campaign for rabies can lead to fewer human rabies deaths in a country. 

  • Prioritizing diseases means countries can more efficiently build lab capacity, conduct disease surveillance, plan outbreak response and preparedness activities, and create disease prevention strategies to reduce illness and death in people and animals.


Each year around the world, it is estimated that zoonoses (diseases shared between people and animals) cause 2.5 billion cases of sickness and 2.7 million deaths

One Health In Action: A Success Story

In the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, brown dog ticks can carry a germ that causes 

Rocky Mountain spotted fever in people and dogs.

In Arizona, free-roaming dogs were spreading infected ticks. Many people got sick and some died from Rocky Mountain 

spotted fever.

Public health and animal health 

officials used long-lasting 

tick collars on dogs, 

regular pesticide applications 

around homes, community education, and provided free spay and neuter clinics for dogs.

After only 4 months, 99% of 

dogs were tick-free in the 

community. The number of 

people who had Rocky Mountain spotted fever went down in the 


Looking ahead: How a One Health Approach Better Prepares Us

With previous pandemics such as the avian flu and the swine flu, there was a real recognition of this need for early surveillance in nonhuman species. So a number of national governments have set up one-health surveillance units … and really try to capture this information at the very earliest stages.

[Scholar] Jakob Zinsstag very much encapsulates One Health as a sort of joint risk assessment and joint planning and interventions because that really allows all the different stakeholders to identify the areas where interventions are most effective.

One example is cysticercosis — a tapeworm [infection] ... that has the pig as the intermediate host, where the pigs pick up the parasitic eggs in human feces. The approach that you need to take to assess where the risk points are include water and sanitation, the animal husbandry — so what is the access of pigs to unprotected latrines — but it also very much involves meat and food hygiene and ensuring that meat that is sold is appropriately inspected to ensure it’s safe for human consumption.

Many of the communities we work in have poor water and sanitation and poor access to health care. In addition, livestock often play a crucial role in people’s livelihoods, so animal health services are something communities often rely heavily on.

So there’s a real opportunity for those animal health services and the human health services to work together in a much more joined-up way around the distribution of medicines, dissemination of information, and things like surveillance.

source: https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/pdfs/OneHealth-FactSheet-FINAL.pdf