Millions of Americans share their heart, homes, and beds to their pets. They’re cuddly and cute, but can they be a source of sickness?
While you can’t catch a cough or cold from your pets, you may be in for other problems. Before adopting a pet, you have to make sure that the benefits of cohabiting with your pet far outweigh the potential infection. Every year, approximately 200,000 Americans get stomach flu after ingesting campylobacter, a common bacterium found on the tails of cats and dogs.
Salmonella is the other easily transmitted bacteria that cause diarrhea and fever in humans. Dr Peter Rabinowitz, a pet-related infection expert says that humans contact with pets like cats and dogs results in millions of infections in the U.S. each year ranging from self-limited skin conditions to life threatening systemic illnesses.
The study he conducted with his colleagues at Yale University School of Medicine revealed that toxoplasmosis was the most common pet related parasitic infections. Though mild or asymptomatic, it could cause serious congenital infection if a pregnant woman is exposed during the first trimester. Some of the most common pet-borne bacterial infections are ringworm, and salmonellosis. Pets can also transmit arthropod-borne and viral illness such as rabies, scabies, and Lyme disease risk.
Pet Related Infections Not Limited to Cats and Dogs
FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine consumer health information paper contained reports that all reptiles and amphibians are commonly contaminated with Salmonella and the consequence of infection are severe in young children.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention state that each year, there are 42,000 reported cases of Salmonellosis – a common bacterial infection caused by the salmonella bacteria. While milder cases were not reported or diagnosed, CDCP believes that the actual number of infections may be twenty nine times greater.
FDA warns that anyone can become infected with Salmonella bacteria, but studies indicate that the risk is higher in infants and children. The 103 people in 33 states infected with Salmonella from May 1, 2007 to January 18, 2008 were exposed to turtles. In 2007, a four week-old infant in Florida died because of salmonella infection from a small turtle. DCD health officials found that the strain of Salmonella outbreak in people was the same found on the turtles belonging to people who became ill.
The CDC reports that salmonella infections are rising. As of December 2009, there are reported infections that involved 85 people, mostly children who come in contact with amphibians and lizards. The report also includes two teenage girls who became sick when they swim in the un-chlorinated in ground pool, where the pet turtles are allowed to swim. People can be infected by cleaning the habitat, feeding, and touching the turtles.
Dr Peter Rabinowitz, associate professor of Yale University School of Medicine does not discourage people from getting a pet. However, pets that require frequent handling are not recommended for children with cancer, HIV, and are taking prednisone or undergoing chemotherapy.
The CDC urged special precautions for immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women, and people with health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. Regular visits to your doctor and veterinarian could improve prevention and treatment.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas