If you have pet at home, be careful, as a new research shows that household pets can transmit infection to people and make them sick.
People with weak immune systems, young children, pregnant women and seniors are especially vulnerable, and health care providers and pet owners should be aware of this risk to prevent illness.
Dr. Jason Stull, assistant professor at Ohio State University said that according to surveys, the general public and people at high risk for pet-associated disease are not aware of the risks associated with high-risk pet practices or recommendations to reduce them.
All pets can transmit diseases to people. For instance, dogs, cats, rodents, reptiles and amphibians can transmit Salmonella, multidrug resistant bacteria (including Clostridium difficile), Campylobacter jejuni and other diseases. Parasites such as hookworm, roundworm and Toxoplasma can also be transmitted. Infection can be contracted from bites, scratches, saliva and contact with feces. Reptiles and amphibians can transmit disease indirectly, such as via contaminated surfaces.
For healthy people, the risk of pet-associated disease is low, but vulnerable people are at risk, including newborns, children with leukemia and adults with cancer.
Dr. Stull said that patients at high risk and their households should have increased vigilance of their pets' health and take precautions to reduce pathogen transmission.
Recommendations for reducing transmission of infection include:
Wearing protective gloves to clean aquariums and cages and remove feces
Proper hand washing after pet contact
Discouraging pets from face licking
Covering playground boxes when not in use
Avoiding contact with exotic animals
Regular cleaning and disinfection of animal cages, feeding areas and bedding
Locating litter boxes away from areas where eating and food preparation occur
Waiting to acquire a new pet until immune status has improved
Regularly scheduling veterinary visits for all pets.
Physicians and other health care providers should enquire about pets and repeat questions in light of illness in vulnerable people, as well as advice on the risks of pet ownership and how to reduce risks of disease.
The authors also recommend that veterinarians can be a resource for physicians seeking more information on zoonotic infections and risks associated with unusual pets.
The study is published in CMAJ
(Canadian Medical Association Journal).