Zoonotic infection should be considered in any unwell patient with a history of exposure to animals, no matter how brief. Clinical features, diagnosis and treatment are outlined for eight zoonoses that are notifiable in Australia: anthrax, Australian bat lyssavirus infection, brucellosis, leptospirosis, psittacosis, Q fever, tularaemia and Hendra virus infection.
Infectious diseases that are naturally transmitted from animals to humans (zoonoses) are responsible for approximately 60 to 70% of emerging human infectious diseases. New zoonoses that have emerged in Australia in the past decade include those caused by Australian bat lyssavirus, Hendra virus and Menangle virus. Many other zoonoses have emerged in other parts of the world, including severe acute respiratory syndrome, avian influenza and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus. The increasing ease and volume of international travel make it more likely that diseases such as these may reach Australia.