Can people get infections from animals?

Yes, although it’s rare for an infection to be passed on in this way. 

How do animals pass infections to people?

The medical name for infections that animals can pass on to people is zoonoses. How it is passed on varies, depending on the type of infection and the animal.

You can catch an infection through direct and indirect contact with an animal. It’s possible to catch an infection if:

  • an infected animal bites or scratches you
  • you accidentally touch an infected animal’s body fluids, such as blood, saliva, urine or poo
  • you touch an object that’s been in contact with an infected animal, such as pet toys or grooming tools
  • you breathe in droplets from the air after an infected animal coughs or sneezes
  • you swallow food or drink contaminated with an infected animal's body fluids
  • you’re bitten by an insect that has previously bitten an infected animal
  • you have an open cut or wound

For information, see What infections can animals pass to people?

Animals that can pass infections to people

Many types of animal can pass infections to humans, including:

  • pets like dogs, cats, birds, tortoises, hamsters, fish and horses
  • exotic pets like lizards, snakes and terrapins
  • farm animals like sheep, pigs, goats, cattle and poultry
  • wild animals, such as foxes, deer and bats
  • rodents, such as rats 
  • insects, such as ticks and mosquitoes

Preventing human infections from animals

You can reduce your risk of getting an infection from an animal by having good personal hygiene and good food hygiene.

For more information, see How can I avoid catching an infection from an animal?

Read the answers to more questions about infections.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 20/04/2015

Next review due: 31/07/2017