Pets Have Been Exposing You To A Health Risk That Has Been Ignored For Long
Photo : iStock
Humans have been exposed to different viruses, the COVID-19 pandemic being one of them. Animals tend to expose humans to zoonotic viruses which then can be extremely fatal to human lives. Similarly, pets, working animals, and urban-dwelling pests could also be sources of zoonotic germs. A new review has warned that the increasing urbanization and climate change will likely change disease dynamics.
Writing in Science Translational Medicine, disease ecologist Amandine Gamble and colleagues show a string of examples which show how companion animals and neighbourhood strays carry a risk of spreading zoonotic viruses from wild animals and livestock. They say that the risk of not being considered well, even though it might be small and limited, however, it still poses a threat to humans. The proximity of pets and stray animals could stand as a health danger to human lives.
Gamble and colleagues write, “These animals can play critical roles in zoonotic spillover by enabling the maintenance of a zoonotic pathogen, facilitating its spatial spread, acting as a bridge between otherwise unconnected species, or providing particular opportunities for its evolution.
“Numbers of infections are low, but plague is endemic in 17 western US states, and many of the small mammals on which cats prey carry Y. pestis. Consequently, outdoor cats and cats with incomplete veterinary care, combined with human interaction, suggest that cat-transmitted plague can be considered an increasing public health risk.”
The researchers conclude, “It is critical to implement surveillance programs allowing us to track changes in pathogen dynamics.”
What are Zoonotic Diseases or Zoonoses?
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says “Animals can sometimes carry harmful germs that can spread to people and cause illness – these are known as zoonotic diseases or zoonoses. Zoonotic diseases are caused by harmful germs like viruses, bacterial, parasites, and fungi. These germs can cause many different types of illnesses in people and animals, ranging from mild to serious illness and even death. Animals can sometimes appear healthy even when they are carrying germs that can make people sick, depending on the zoonotic disease.
“Zoonotic diseases are very common, both in the United States and around the world. Scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals, and 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.”
Here’s how you can protect yourself from zoonotic diseases.
- Vaccination and Preventive Medications
Ensure that your pets and livestock are vaccinated and receive regular veterinary care. If you work closely with animals or travel to areas where zoonotic diseases are prevalent, discuss preventive medications or vaccines with your healthcare provider.
- Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
When handling animals or visiting places with potential zoonotic risks, use appropriate protective gear such as gloves and masks. Protective clothing can create a barrier between you and potentially infectious agents.
- Safe Food Handling Practices
Cook meat thoroughly to kill any harmful bacteria or parasites. Avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products, and practice good food safety habits to prevent cross-contamination.
- Stay Informed and Seek Medical Attention
Stay informed about zoonotic diseases and be aware of the risks associated with different animals. If you develop symptoms such as fever, diarrhoea, or respiratory issues after being in contact with animals, seek medical attention promptly.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.