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Pets May Pass Illnesses to Owners
Date:1/21/2011

By Maryann Mott
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- You might want to think twice before snuggling in bed at night with Fido or Fluffy.

According to a report published in the February issue of the public health journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, seemingly healthy pets can carry parasites, bacteria or viruses that cause mild to life-threatening illness in people.

Of the 250 zoonotic diseases -- infections transmitted between animals and people -- more than 100 are derived from domestic pets, said veterinarian Dr. Bruno Chomel, report co-author and professor of zoonoses at University of California School of Veterinary Medicine at Davis.

Even though disease transmission is low in comparison to how many people sleep with their pets -- more than half of all U.S. pet owners -- Chomel said the risks are still there.

"Having a pet in the bed is not a good idea," he said.

In one case a 69-year-old man, whose dog slept under the covers with him and licked his hip replacement wound, came down with meningitis. Another incident involved a 9-year-old boy who got plague, a potentially deadly bacterial infection, from sleeping with his flea-infested cat.

Other infections transmitted to people after sleeping with their cat or dog, kissing them or being licked by the pet include: hookworm, ringworm, roundworm, cat scratch disease and drug-resistant staph infections, the report said.

While people need to be aware that it's possible to get sick from a pet, the health benefits of ownership far outweigh the risks, said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz of the Yale School of Medicine and co-author of the text book Human-Animal Medicine: Clinical Approaches to Zoonoses, Toxicants and Other Shared Health Risks. Research has shown that besides offering psychological support and friendship, pets help to lower blood pressure, increase physical activity, reduce stress and lift owners' spi
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