Growing threat to Australia from potentially lethal diseases

April 19, 2010

Growing threat to Australia from potentially lethal diseasesAs experts from around the world met in New York last week to discuss the need for greater understanding of the threat posed by ticks, fleas and sand flies, Australian scientists call on veterinarians and dog-owners here to take action to protect dogs and people from potentially lethal diseases.

Ticks, mosquitoes, fleas and, in some countries, sand flies are critical in the transmission of diseases to both dogs and humans, including life-threatening conditions such as Lyme Disease, Leishmaniasis and Ehrlichiosis.

Professor Peter Irwin, School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, who presented at the 5th World CVBD Forum in New York last week, says that so-called CVBDs (canine vector borne diseases) that were once considered exotic or unusual are now commonly extending their distribution thanks to the increase in pet travel and, in part, to changes in climate.

“Many people think these parasites are just an unpleasant but harmless nuisance, but far from it," Professor Irwin said.

"The diseases they spread pose a real threat to the health of dogs and humans. An important prevention measure for dogs from CVBDs is to ensure they are treated with an effective, repellent insecticide to minimise the risk of disease transmission.”

Veterinarians are often the first responders, from an animal and public health perspective, to see evidence of their spread, but may not recognise the symptoms or fully understand the public health ramification of these diseases.

“Because of their close proximity to humans and their susceptibility to infection, dogs are uniquely poised to function as a sentinel for human disease risks from tick-borne pathogens," continued Professor Irwin.

"Veterinarians should be educated about owner risks when these infections are diagnosed in dogs, and should take an active role in explaining risks to clients."

“People who find ticks on their dogs should be aware that such events can signal a personal risk of exposure to themselves and their families, even if human tick bites have not been recognised.”

The CVBD World Forum is supported by Bayer Animal Health as part of its ongoing commitment to supporting the scientific community in its fight against parasites worldwide.

Article courtesy of Publicis Life Brands on behalf of Bayer Animal Health.

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