Zoonotic diseases are those transferred from animals to humans, including Lyme disease, salmonella, and E. coli. Zoonotic diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that six out of 10 infectious diseases found in human result from animals.
As humans we interact with animals on a daily basis. Not only do we interact with animals that are our pets, but we are in contact with livestock and even wild or zoo animals as well.
Although many zoonotic diseases can be treated, many of them pose serious health complications and can even be fatal. Some more dangerous zoonotic diseases include Lyme disease, West Nile virus, dengue, malaria, chikungunya, salmonella and E. coli.
New study suggests ways to avoid catching diseases from pets
New study suggests ways to avoid catching diseases from petsA new study looked at ways to avoid catching diseases from your pets – especially if you have a weakened immune system, which increases your risk. Ohio State University compiled information from 500 studies worldwide in order to develop recommendations that families could use to help reduce their risk of contracting a disease from their pets.
Each pet carries its own unique risk of zoonotic diseases, so researchers suggest speaking to your doctor prior to purchasing a pet, especially if your household has infants, a pregnant women, seniors, or anyone with a weakened immune system as they are at highest risk of contracting a disease.
Researcher at the university, Jason Stull, Ph.D., said, “It’s all about safe pet ownership. There are very few situations in which a person couldn’t or shouldn’t have some type of pet if they wish. It’s about matching the right species with the right person and taking the appropriate precautions.”
“Surveys suggest that most veterinarians and physicians do not regularly discuss zoonotic disease risks with clients, patients or each other. That needs to change if we are going to effectively reduce pet-associated diseases,” explained Stull.
Stull suggests that if doctors are unaware of potential risks that animals can pose, they should consult a veterinarian, who can provide additional information.
Pets can transfer disease numerous ways, including feces, saliva and skin. For example, reptile pets carry salmonella in their digestive tract, so after touching these pets it’s important to thoroughly wash your hands.
Recommendations offered by the study include:
* Wearing protective gloves to clean aquariums and cages and remove feces
* Proper handwashing after pet contact
* Discouraging pets from face licking
* Covering playground boxes when not in use
* Avoiding contact with higher risk animals, such as reptiles, amphibians, and exotic animals
* Regular cleaning and disinfection of animal cages, feeding areas and bedding
* Locating litter boxes away from areas where eating and food prep occur
* Waiting to acquire a new pet until immune status has improved
* Regularly scheduling veterinary visits for all pets
Stull concluded, “Pets do so much good for people in terms of mental, physical and emotional health. But at the same time, they can transmit diseases to us. Physicians, veterinarians and the public have to work together to make sure the benefits outweigh the risks.”