Ever wonder if it’s okay to let your best friend — the furry one who pads around your house on four legs — lick your face or share your spoon?
Probably not, says Lonnie King, DVM, senior veterinarian at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who spoke with APHA’s Get Ready campaign about zoonotic diseases recently. Which brings up another question: What in the world is a zoonotic disease? The word “zoo” sort of makes you think of the zoo — the place you go to see elephants and giraffes without having to go on a safari in South Africa. The word “zoonotic” has its roots in Greek and means animal diseases. Zoonotic diseases are naturally occurring diseases that can be transmitted from or through animals to people.
About 75 percent of recent emerging infectious diseases affecting humans are diseases of animal origin, says King, who is director of CDC’s director of CDC’s National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne and Enteric Diseases.
So when it comes to deciding whether or not it’s okay to let Fluffy or Fido get close, it’s best to use common sense, King says.
“We love our pets, and the benefits that we get from the human-animal bond…helps our psychological well being,” King says in an exclusive online Q&A with the Get Ready campaign.
But dogs, cats, birds and turtles, among other cute critters, can transmit diseases like toxoplasmosis, salmonella, roundworms and hookworms, to name a few.
“Don’t be so overly concerned that you miss out on the wonderful benefits of your pets as companions and the richness they add to your life,” King advises. “Just understand that they are a potential source of threats — not a high risk — but you need to use precautions.”
By the way, there are also some diseases that Fluffy and Fido can catch from you.
The full Q&A with King on zoonotic diseases is online now on the Get Ready Web site.