Common-sense pet care prevents disease
If you think about all the diseases one can contract from animals — from rabies to worms and more — it’s almost enough to make you want to go pet-free and wrap yourself up in plastic.
In fact, it’s pretty mind-boggling how many diseases and parasites can be passed from pets to humans. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control helpfully supplies a pretty scary list of them. The CDC’s Healthy
Pets, Healthy People website (www.cdc.gov/healthypets) offers an in-depth examination of these so-called “zoonotic” health risks, and it includes special advice for people at higher risk, including those with immune-system weaknesses and those whose jobs involve working with animals.
At the top of the list of concerns would likely be rabies, a deadly disease more common in wildlife than in pets, thanks to decades of aggressive vaccination laws. Other worries are bacterial, with pets capable of transmitting salmonella, leptospirosis and campylobacteriosis, to name a nasty trio. Diseases caused by parasites include tapeworm, hookworm, roundworm, Lyme disease and giardia. And there’s even ringworm, which is really a fungus. Toxoplasmosis is a special concern for people sharing their lives with cats.
Pets are not the only source for many of these diseases — in many cases, improper food handling is a bigger risk. You can reduce the chance of your animal or bird companion making you sick by keeping your pet free of disease and by making sure all family members wash hands frequently when around animals. — Dr. Marty Becker