March 18, 2020 One Health Pets and Family

Can my pet make me sick? Can I make my pet sick?

A labrador retriever in a field at dusk

Can my pet make me sick? Can I make my pet sick?

The 2019n-COV virus from China, also known as the Wuhan coronavirus, has raised concerns about the role of pets as a source of infections or in the spread of infections. Thankfully, there is currently no evidence for a role of pets in the COVID-2019 outbreak. However, there are diseases spread between animals and people. These are called zoonotic diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control, zoonotic diseases account for over 60% of all communicable diseases causing illness in humans.

How can my pet make me sick?

Zoonotic diseases spread between people and pets via several different mechanisms, described below.

  • Direct contact refers to a disease spread via immediate contact with an infected animal. Rabies is a good example of a direct contact zoonotic disease transmitted through a bite injury, as is rat bite fever.
  • Indirect contact refers to a disease that can be spread indirectly through contact with soil containing infectious organisms such as toxoplasmosis or intestinal worms.
  • Vector-borne zoonotic diseases are transmitted by a “middle man” that carries the disease from an animal to you. Fleas, ticks and mosquitos are common vectors. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and anaplasmosis are vector borne diseases that affect both humans and pets. 
  • Foodborne illnesses pass from infected pet food and treats and can be source of illness for both people and their pets. Human food or pet food contaminated with Salmonella or Campylobacter bacteria is a potential source of illness in all members of the household.

How can I make my pet sick?

There are fewer examples of human diseases transmitted to pets. Although it is rare, influenza can spread from a sick person to their pet. Pets can also be exposed to foodborne illness if they eat raw meat which may expose them to Salmonella or E coli bacteria causing a gastrointestinal disease.

How to Protect Your Household from Zoonotic Diseases

  • Hand washing is one of the best disease prevention tools available. When you can’t wash, use an alcohol-based sanitizer. Always wash your hands after touching animals or their food.
  • Stay safe around animals. Avoid bites and scratches. Approach strange animals with caution.
  • Protect against fleas, ticks and mosquitoes with preventive medication for pets, bug spray and protective clothing for people and regular tick checks for all family members
  • Keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date and in line with their lifestyle.
  • Refrigerate food, wash cutting boards and utensils in hot soapy water or the dishwasher.
  • Wash your pet’s food and water bowls daily.
Tags: coronavirus, COVID19, e coli, fleas, infectious diseases, influenza, lyme disease, one health, rabies, salmonella, ticks, zoonotic diseases,

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