Did you know that an estimated 60% of known infectious diseases and up to 75% of new or emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in origin1? Zoonotic diseases are those which can be transmitted between animals and humans, such as COVID-19, Rabies, and West Nile virus. Outbreaks of infectious zoonotic diseases are happening with increasing frequency due to the encroachment of suburban communities into woodlands, climate change, and increasing global travel and trade. Preventing and controlling infectious diseases is important to protect animal and human health, and to help assure a safe, sustainable supply of animal protein.

The idea of “One Health” recognizes the connection between the health of people, animals, and the environment. However, building a One Health approach to control the spread of new infectious diseases and ever-present disease threats has never been more crucial than it is today amid a global pandemic. Zoonotic diseases are nothing new, but COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the need to be ready with solutions that can help prevent, detect and treat diseases in human and animal health. 

Center for Transboundary and Emerging Diseases

“Zoetis organizes our response to outbreaks of infectious diseases worldwide through our Center for Transboundary and Emerging Diseases,” said John Hardham, Research Director, VMRD Global Biologics Research. “By working closely with leaders from government, health organizations, and the veterinary and livestock agricultural communities, we mobilize resources from across the company to help control current diseases that affect animals.”

The Center also supports a One Health approach by focusing on the approximately 200 diseases identified by the World Health Organization as zoonotic and can transmit between animals and people. 

Diseases affecting animals and people

Lyme disease is the most common vector borne disease in the United States. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. According to the American Kennel Club over 95% of Lyme disease cases in the United States are from the Northeast, Upper Midwest and the Pacific Coast. The disease is also prevalent in central Europe and has been reported in 80 countries. Zoetis has developed a line of vaccines to help protect dogs from Lyme disease. Learn more here.

Also known as Bird Flu, the avian influenza (AI) virus is known to affect both birds and humans. While the number of human cases of bird flu has been relatively small in recent years, public health officials have warned that ‘Bird Flu’ could lead to the next global pandemic if not monitored. In 2016, to help combat the risk of an AI outbreak, Zoetis developed a vaccine to help prevent disease caused by avian influenza H5N1 in chickens. Learn more here.

Rabies is the oldest disease known to affect both animals and humans and yet is still responsible for the death of an estimated 60,000 people globally each year, including 100 children every day. Recently, on World Rabies Day in September, the University of Surrey in the UK shared how they are collaborating with Zoetis and others to pair vaccines with digital tools as a way to protect dogs – and ultimately people – from rabies.

West Nile virus (WNV) is the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the continental United States.  It is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. Cases of WNV occur during mosquito season, which starts in the summer and continues through fall. WNV poses a significant risk to not only humans, but horses as well. West Nile virus is fatal in 33% of horses that exhibit clinical signs of disease. Zoetis has developed vaccines to help protect horses from WNV. Learn more here.


Zoonotic diseases have never been so important than recently with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Zoetis’ scientists developed a COVID vaccine for animals that has been approved for use in certain zoo animals on a case-by-case basis by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the appropriate state veterinarians. Following an initial donation of more than 11,000 doses of our vaccine to nearly 70 U.S. zoos this summer, and overwhelming response from zoo veterinarians around the world, Zoetis is donating an additional 15,000 doses of our COVID-19 vaccine for animals to approximately 100 zoos and 20 conservatories, sanctuaries and other animal organizations located across 41 states and in 14 other countries. Learn more about our vaccine donation program here

At Zoetis, our scientists strive to be first to know when a zoonotic disease threatens to devastate livestock herds and the health of pets, and to be fast to market with a vaccine, diagnostic test or treatment. We are proud to have played an important role in One Health by discovering and developing solutions for many zoonotic diseases that threaten human health.

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5711306/