Disease transmission from pets to people

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: March 27th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Just like the Fidos and Fluffys we cherish as part of our families, the diseases our pets carry… and the pathogens that cause them… come in all shapes and sizes, and from multiple origins.

Cat scratch disease, caused by a bacterium, is among the more common ailments pets are capable of transmitting. Ringworm derives from a fungus. Rabies results from a virus. Hookworms and roundworms are parasites.

And while pets offer comfort in our lives, responsible pet ownership includes not just monitoring the pet’s health and hygiene, but also our own.

Animal diseases transmittable to humans are known as zoonotic [ZO-a-NAH-tick] diseases, or zoonoses [ZO-a-NO-seas]. According to the U..S Food and Drug Administration, the list of zoonoses is long and growing, as people travel to remote parts of the world and bring diseases back with them, and as animals that carry diseases are imported.

Reptiles such as turtles, lizards and snakes are among the exotic pets most likely to carry diseases. Baby chicks and ducklings also can harbor transmittable illnesses. But even people who acquire pets from local breeders or animal shelters may risk catching something. Some are more vulnerable than others: such as young children, pregnant women or anyone with a compromised immune system.

Washing your hands after touching your pet and making sure it’s vaccinated on schedule can help keep your whole family healthy. Wear gloves when changing Fluffy’s litterbox, and don’t touch stray animals or bring home an animal with a health history you’re unsure of.