Key Zoonotic Disease Terms
When reading about zoonotic diseases (infections that transmit from animals to humans), we have to be aware of some key terms.
Agent: The agent is the actual infectious organism. It can be a bacteria, prion, virus, fungus, or parasite.
Reservoir: The reservoir is the organism that carries the agent but is not negatively affected by it.
Host: The host is organism that gets infected and whose health is diminished by the infection. Hosts can be intermediary or terminal. A terminal host is one which is killed by the agent.
Vector: The vector is the vehicle that transports the agent to the host. Vectors can be mosquitoes, ticks, and other organisms.
So to use these terms in a concrete example let’s consider Hantavirus. The agent is the Sin Nombre virus. The reservoir is the mice themselves. The vector is also the mice, which spread the virus through their urine and droppings. The host is, unfortunately us.
To give another example consider Lyme disease. The agent is Borrelia burgdorferi. The reservoirs include mice and birds. The vector is the deer tick, which transmits the disease to humans, which are the host.
About the Author
Stephen M. Vantassel is a certified wildlife control operator who helps individuals, businesses, and agencies resolve wildlife damage issues through training, writing, expert witness, and research. His latest books are the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook, 3rd edition and The Practical Guide to the Control of Feral Cats. He can be contacted at wildlifecontrolconsultant at gmail dot com.
If you would like your publication, video, or product reviewed, please contact the author at the e-mail above.
All postings are the property of Stephen M. Vantassel and Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC. Text (not images) may be reprinted in non-profit publications provided that the author and website URL is included. If images wish to be used, explicit and written permission must be obtained from Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC.