CDC and Zoonotic Disease
CDC works 24/7 to protect people from diseases spread by bugs and animals. Learn what you can do to protect yourself and children.
Every year, tens of thousands of Americans will get sick from a disease they caught from a bug or other animal. These are known as zoonotic diseases. Because diseases from bugs and other animals cause about 3 out of 5 new human sicknesses, CDC is always tracking and reporting them.
To protect yourself from bug bites – and the diseases they cause – wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and spray any uncovered skin with bug repellent containing DEET.
Diseases spread by ticks and mosquitos are serious and infect many people in the U.S. each year. CDC is working closely with local communities to find ways to control mosquitos, ticks, and the diseases they spread. We are also researching improved ways of diagnosing these diseases.
Some of the most common zoonotic diseases to know about include:
- Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which you can get from a tick bite.
- West Nile virus, which you can get from a mosquito bite.
- Dengue, malaria, and chikungunya, which you can get if you travel to areas where these diseases are common, such as the Caribbean, and are bitten by an infected mosquito.
- Salmonella infection, which you can get after handling a baby chick, chicken, duck, turtle, or snake.
- E. coli infection, which you can catch if you touch areas in a petting zoo or animal exhibit where some of the animals are infected. You can also catch E. coli infection if you work at a dairy because cows can have E. coli germs on their udders.
Help protect children with hand washing after handling animals.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your children from zoonotic diseases. First, take note that some people are more at risk than others. Plan to take special steps to protect people from the groups below. They are more likely than others to get really sick and even die of zoonotic diseases. These include:
- Children under the age of 5 years
- Pregnant women
- Adults over the age of 65 years
- Anyone with a weakened immune system – for example, someone with HIV or a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy
Next, be aware of places where you might come into contact with an infected bug or animal
- Nature parks of any type—fields, woods, beaches, deserts
- Wooded and bushy areas
- Animal displays, petting zoos, and pet stores
- County or state fairs
Always wash your hands after being around animals
Make sure children wash for 20 seconds.
- It’s not always convenient to wash your hands or your children’s hands, but it’s important.
- After you are around an animal, wash your hands for 20 seconds. That’s about how long it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.
Protect yourself from bug bites, day and night
- Use bug repellent on skin not covered by clothes or shoes.
- Look for repellents with “EPA-registered” on the label. These contain 20% or more DEET.
- Remember that repellents only last for a few hours, so reapply! Follow the instructions on the label.
- Spray your clothing and gear—including boots, pants, socks, bed nets, and tents—with products containing permethrin, which repels and kills ticks, mosquitoes, and other arthropods.
- Get rid of any standing water. Check buckets, flower pots, old tires, and even litter. Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so get rid of the water in these areas outside your home.
Check for ticks after you’ve been outdoors
- Check your body and your children’s bodies for ticks, and once you find a tick, remove it right away.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick. This can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers.
- Dispose of a live tick by flushing it down the toilet, submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/ container, or wrapping it tightly in tape.
- Don’t “paint” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly.
- Don’t use heat to make the tick detach from the skin. These methods will NOT work.
- Check your dogs and cats for ticks.
- To avoid ticks while you’re hiking, walk in the center of trails. Avoid wooded and busy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Page last reviewed: February 18, 2016
- Page last updated: March 7, 2016
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