Friday, January 23, 2009
Get Ready Mailbag: Can I catch the flu from my pets?
Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. I love animals. I count a dog and two cats among my family. If I get the flu this winter, can my animals catch it from me? How about vice versa?
A. In almost all situations, the answer is no. The virus that causes the flu in humans is species-specific, which means you can't spread it to your dog or cat, nor can you get it from them.
The only exception is avian influenza, also known as bird flu. The H5N1 "bird flu" virus is believed to have originated in wild birds and moved into domestic ducks and chickens in Asia. In the process, mutations occurred that allowed the virus to "jump" from birds to humans living in close proximity with their chickens and ducks. However there have been no reports of the bird flu being transmitted from dogs or cats to people and this is not a concern.
But thinking beyond the flu, there are diseases that we can catch from our pets and that they can catch from us. For more info, check out this Q&A on animal disease from an expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Note: The photo with this blog entry is an homage to LOLcats. (Not sure what that is? Visit the LOLcats site, or read about it on Wikipedia)