Zoonosis is the transfer of a disease from pets to people. Most people are aware of certain zoonotic diseases like rabies and anthrax because they are very serious, headline-grabbing diseases. However, the incidence of these diseases is very rare with only 0-2 cases of human rabies occurring annually in the U.S. Unknown to the greater portion of the population, are the more common zoonoses caused by intestinal parasites, like roundworm and hookworm, found in our pets. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates between one and three million people are zoonotically infected each year in the U.S.
Hookworms and roundworms can cause several forms of infection when spread to people. Roundworms cause ocular larva migrans (OLM), an eye disease that may lead to blindness and occurs in more than 700 people yearly. Both roundworm and hookworm infestation can lead to visceral larva migrans (VLM) a disease that causes swelling of vital organs or central nervous system when the larvae migrates through the body. Lastly, hookworm larvae can move through the skin and cause painful itchy skin infections. In most cases, these parasitic infections are not serious and many people, especially adults infected with a small number of larvae, may not notice any symptoms at all. The most severe cases are rare and are more likely to occur in young children. As many as 4% – 20% of the children in the U.S. contract roundworms from their pets each year
Children are very susceptible because they are always grabbing, touching and sticking their hands in their mouths without regard to whether they are clean. Additionally, they are more likely to play in, or eat dirt contaminated with dog or cat stool. The good news is that the zoonosis phenomenon is preventable. Using a year round parasite product to treat pets and reinforcing common sense hygiene in children helps families reduce the risk of contacting zoonoses.
Basic hygiene is essential in preventing zoonosis. Here are some ways to help protect your family from intestinal parasites carried by house pets:
• Wash your hands with soap and running water after touching feces.
• Take your pet to the veterinarian on a regular basis, test for parasites and follow recommended deworming protocols for your area.
• Don’t let your pet drink from toilet bowls or eat feces.
• Avoid sharing food or kissing animals on their mouths.
• Remove your pet’s fecal matter from your lawn or surrounding outdoor environment daily. Feces can be bagged and put in the trash, burned or flushed down the toilet.
• Cover your children’s sandboxes when not in use. This is a very common “litterbox” for cats and can lead to severe infestations in young children.
• Keep pets away from strays or wild animals, which might serve as hosts to intestinal parasites.
For more information and specific guidelines on controlling zoonosis in your home and outdoor environment, visit www.GrowingUpWithPets.com or www.cdc.gov
Compliments of Deepwood Vet Clinic