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Training Manual on Wildlife Diseases and Surveillance
V. Pathogen transmission
Understanding how pathogens are transmitted among hosts often is essential to
programmes that seek to control or reduce zoonotic diseases or diseases shared between wild
and domestic animals.
Pathogen transmission can be very complicated. There are three broad, general routes
by which pathogens can be transmitted among hosts
– close contact
– environmental contamination
– intermediate hosts.
Each of these broad categories includes many different routes of transmission:
For example, transmission of dermatophyte fungi (‘ringworm’) or of mange mites (e.g.
Sarcoptes) is commonly, perhaps exclusively, by skin-to-skin contact. On the other hand, bovine
tuberculosis can be transmitted by several different routes, such as aerosols, excretion of
inflammatory exudate, contact with carcasses of infected animals, or via fomites and food. Avian
cholera and avian influenza often are transmitted through water. Trichinella and Anasakis
nematodes are transmitted through food. Mosquitoes can serve as transport hosts for avian pox
virus, and as true biological vectors for viruses such as yellow fever virus which undergoes
development in the mosquito. The life cycle of many parasitic helminths include intermediate
hosts and some include paratenic hosts which are not required in the life cycle but often are
important in pathogen transmission.
To manage any infectious disease, it is essential to know very precisely how it is
transmitted. These routes of transmission also are the mechanisms by which infectious
pathogens maintain themselves and persist in animal and human populations, and they are the
mechanisms by which pathogens in wild animals can infect domestic animals and people.