By • Published: November 13th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

As you and your family or friends head outdoors to enjoy the fresh air of fall, humans aren’t the only ones who are out and about. Man’s best furry and feline friends are tagging along, too.

While it is hard to refuse the silly smile of a dog or the peaceful purr of a cat, adults and children alike should think twice before reaching out, at least to animals they don’t know.

Experts say an innocent and playful scrape or bite from these furry friends could turn into the community-associated form of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA [MER-sa]… a type of staph infection that is acquired outside of the hospital and is resistant to common antibiotics.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than thirteen-thousand people per year become infected with this type of MRSA.

Meanwhile, severe infections occur in about twenty percent of all dog and cat bites, according to the National Institutes of Health. These infections usually appear as abscesses, boils and other pus-filled lesions. Humans can catch this form of MRSA from cats and dogs that carry bacteria in their mouths after it is licked from skin and wounds.

Avoid “leading the life of the dog” by following these simple steps. First, always keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. And if your close encounter of the animal kind goes awry, keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.

Best of all, prevent the problem to begin with. To avoid dog and cat bites, never pet, handle or feed unknown animals.