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Dubai: Dubai Municipality has launched an online survey to determine the level of community awareness about zoonotic diseases, the illnesses that can be spread between animals and humans.

In the survey sent out to residents via email, the civic body has asked questions to gauge their understanding about common zoonotic diseases, also known as zoonoses.

Questions are also asked to check if residents are aware of how some of the zoonoses are spread, the risks of pets spreading zoonotic diseases and the ways to prevent them.

The survey starts with a definition of zoonotic diseases – ‘a range of diseases that affect the animals and can be transmitted to humans in different ways of transmission and can also be transmitted from human to animal.’

One question attempts to check if residents are aware that brucellosis, hemorrhagic fever and bovine tuberculosis are zoonotic diseases. The link between brucellosis and consumption of contaminated raw milk or milk products is explored in another question.

Health risks of pets

Yet another question tackles the risk of dealing directly with infected animals without the use of personal protection equipment while some other questions probe if residents are aware about the health risks of keeping pets and how to keep their pets and themselves safe.

Residents are asked to select the most important disease (rabies in the given list) that can be transmitted from pets to humans.

Immunization and vaccination, enhancing immunity of the animal by providing appropriate housing and food, consulting nearest veterinary clinic in case of observation of any abnormal behaviour in the pets are some of the options given for preventing the health hazards of pet animals.

Not buying an animal from online shops without ensuring its health and safety, providing a suitable environment for animals and periodic screening of animals for veterinary testing to ensure that they are free of diseases are listed as responsibilities of pet owners.

Answers from residents, especially pet owners, are expected to help the civic body understand and fill the knowledge gaps, encourage vaccinations and formulate plans and programmes that will protect the health of pets and owners and other animals and their handlers and those come in contact with them.

The municipality has also sought suggestions from the public to increase the level of community awareness of the zoonotic diseases.

Responding to the survey, Dr Sara Elliott, founder and director of British Veterinary Hospital in Dubai told Gulf News: “Surveys are important to help us direct the correct level of information and education. Education is always important to promote understanding and tolerance.”

She pointed out that it is difficult to try and find the balance between educating people and scaring them.

“It is very important to note that the risk of serious disease transmission from vaccinated, well-cared-for pets is very small.

Vaccinations are very important in animals, as in people, to help us reduce and eradicate dangerous and deadly diseases,” said Dr. Elliott.

“It is through the rabies vaccination awareness and pet registration that the UAE has managed to get a globally-acknowledged ‘low risk status of rabies disease’,” she added.