What is zoonosis?
Zoonosis (zo•on•o•sis) n. a disease that is passed from animals to humans.
Most people are aware of certain zoonotic diseases like rabies, anthrax and monkeypox because they are very serious, headline-grabbing diseases. However, the incidence of these diseases is very rare. In fact, there are only zero to two human cases of rabies annually in the U.S. Sadly, when it comes to the more common zoonoses like roundworm and hookworm (A. caninum), both of which can result in very serious health conditions, most people are unaware. More than 1/3 of the nation's dogs are infected with intestinal parasites. And the Centers for Disease Control estimates between one and three million people are zoonotically infected each year in the U.S.
As many as 4%–20% of children in the U.S. contract roundworms from their pets each year. In some parts of the country, especially the Southeast, zoonotically transmitted intestinal parasites are so prevalent that many children test positive for exposure to intestinal parasites and become sick. Children are one of the groups that are most susceptible to zoonotic infection because they are always grabbing, touching and sticking their hands in their mouths without regard to whether they are clean.
The good news is that the zoonosis phenomenon is entirely preventable. Using a year round parasite product to treat pets and reinforcing common sense hygiene in children helps families reduce the risk of contracting zoonoses.
Basic hygiene is essential in preventing zoonosis. Parents must wash the family's pets regularly and teach children about hands and mouths. Instruct children to wash their hands after playing with pets, after playing outdoors, before eating, and to wash often. Kids don't wash their hands on their own. Parents must encourage this behavior.
Here are some easy ways to help protect your family from diseases 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 and keep up with all vaccinations recommended for your area.
• If your dog bites you, wash the area right away with soap and water.
• Wash your hands after handling your pet—especially before eating or preparing food.
• People with weakened immune systems should take special precautions, including never letting pets lick them on the face or on an open cut or wound, never touching animal feces and never handling an animal that has diarrhea.
• Don't let your pet drink from toilet bowls or eat feces.
You can reduce the risk of zoonotic infection by keeping your family's and pet's indoor and outdoor environments clean:
• 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 a toilet.
• Cover your children's sandboxes when not in use.
• Use appropriate methods to reduce mosquito populations in your outdoor environment.
As mentioned before, some people are especially susceptible to zoonotic infections and parasites. Extreme precaution in preventing zoonotic transmission should be taken with:
• Immunocompromised individuals - people with HIV infection, people undergoing immunosuppressive therapy (e.g., chemotherapy patients, organ transplant patients, patients undergoing treatment for autoimmune disease), people with advanced liver disease, diabetics, pregnant women, infants and young children, elderly individuals
• Individuals who are mentally disabled
• Individuals with occupational risk
For specific guidelines on controlling zoonosis in your home and outdoor environment or for instructions on how to keep your household and outdoor environment safe if your pet has been infected with parasites, visit www.capcvet.org.
Dogs must be tested for heartworm prior to use. In a small percentage of treated dogs, digestive, neurological and skin side effects may occur. Please see full product insert for more information.
For more information on how zoonotic diseases affect humans, visit www.cdc.gov.