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BREA, Calif. -- When most people think about protecting themselves from disease, they usually think about avoiding contact with sick friends, taking vitamin C and washing their hands more frequently. Most don't realize that a potential culprit could be lying next to them on the couch.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year thousands of people contract various forms of diseases from zoonotic conditions -- diseases that
can be acquired by humans from household dogs, cats or other domestic or wild
"Lyme disease, hookworm or roundworm infections (more common in children),
and toxoplasmosis (highest risk to pregnant women) are a few examples of
harmful conditions that can be passed from pet to person," explains Dr. Peter
Weinstein, medical director for Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI). "Since the transmitter of these illnesses is normally an infected pet or flea or tick carrying the condition
from an animal to a human, the key is to detect, treat, or better yet prevent
zoonotic diseases and conditions with proper veterinary care." Weinstein
elaborates on preventative tactics associated with the more prevalent and
harmful zoonotic ailments:
HOOKWORMS & ROUNDWORMS
Prevalent in puppies and kittens, hookworms and roundworms are parasites
that live and grow inside the intestines of both dogs and cats. Infected pets
pass hookworm or roundworm eggs or larvae in their feces, which humans
(usually children) may have direct contact with and subsequently become
infected. Roundworms in humans are normally a result of ingesting animal
feces, while hookworms are contracted through skin penetration. Weinstein
warns that in some extreme cases roundworm larvae may cause damage to tissue,
affect the nervous system, or perhaps lodge in the eye and lead to blindness.
Hookworm larvae migrate within human skin, causing localized irritation and
"The most effective way to lessen the risk of getting a zoonotic infection
is to prevent it in your pet," explains Weinstein. "Have your puppy or kitten
dewormed at a very early age and throughout puppy/kittenhood, since they can
contract worms from their mother before birth. Annual fecal exams and
preventive dewormings for canines and felines are integral to monitoring the
presence or preventing the reappearance of these intestinal parasites." Also, recognizing and avoiding possible contaminated soil and plants and keeping play areas and lawns free of animal feces helps avoid human contraction of roundworms and hookworms.
Lyme disease is a bacterial disease that manifests in mice and deer, and
is transmitted to dogs and cats by ticks that have bitten infected carriers.
The same ticks that infect a pet canine can transmit Lyme disease to the pet
owner(s), potentially causing them to experience flu-like symptoms, including
fever, headache, and muscle or joint pain. The infliction is most commonly
affiliated with joint aching and discomfort that can contribute to or
aggravate arthritis. Antibiotic treatment is usually administered for both
dogs and humans.
Weinstein lists tick avoidance and control for pets as a pivotal role in
preventing Lyme disease. "Prevention for Lyme disease is two fold; pet owners
should invest in prescription flea/tick control, as well as vaccinate those
dogs in high-risk areas for Lyme disease."
"The zoonoses that we commonly see surface in humans are conveniently
preventable by practicing diligence when it comes to well care for our pets,"
adds Weinstein. "More harmful conditions that are challenging to prevent,
like Plague and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, are rarer to see in humans, but
pet owners are prone to nonetheless if their pets aren't treated for it. Being prepared with both a base medical plan and routine coverage for your dog, cat or bird helps pet owners reduce the risk of zoonoses."
Source: Veterinary Pet Insurance