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Online Discussion: Tracking new emerging diseases and the next pandemic

Owners may infect pets with drug-resistant bug

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    Posted: March 26 2006 at 5:49am

Owners may infect pets with drug-resistant bug
1 in 100 people carries staph germ in the nose

Associated Press

Mar. 26, 2006 12:00 AM

ATLANTA - People can get plenty of diseases from animals - bird flu, for one.

Now, there are signs dogs and cats can catch a dangerous superbug from people.At a large Philadelphia veterinary hospital, scientists report that over a three-year period, 38 dogs, cats and other pets caught a drug-resistant staph infection.

They think six of the animals caught the bug from hospital workers. But it's likely that at least some of the other cases were spread to pets by their owners, said Shelley Rankin, chief of clinical microbiology at Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine.

"I don't think its necessarily that you come home and pat Fluffy on the head and then Fluffy gets sick," said Rankin, who presented the data last week at a medical conference in Atlanta.

But given that an estimated one in every 100 people carries such bacteria in the nose, it could be transmitted by closer contact, she added.

"We pick them up, kiss them on the face. We let them lick us," she said. "Then they lick their skin."

The animals were infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterial infection that is typically hard to treat, although all the pets recovered.

They included 26 dogs, eight cats, three parrots and one rabbit.

The dogs developed skin and ear infections. The cats got urinary-tract infections; the parrots, skin infections; the rabbit, an ear infection.

In people, the germ often appears as a nasty skin infection but can also cause other symptoms.

Researchers don't know if the bacteria spreads from animal to animal, although dogs don't naturally harbor it.

The animals may have caught the bug at other vet clinics before they arrived at Penn's Ryan Veterinary Hospital or they may have caught it from their owners, Penn researchers said.

Last year, Penn's veterinary and human medical schools began a study of the health of pets and their owners. Researchers initially are looking at 25 owner-animal pairs but want to expand that number.

For more than a decade, medical journals have carried occasional reports of human-to-animal transmission of such infections.

Journals also have reported animal-to-human transmission.

Georgia Veterinary Specialists, a large animal hospital in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs, saw only two methicillin-resistant staph infections in the thousands of animals it cared for in the past year.

Looking for such infections in animals and their owners is a new endeavor, said Mark Dorfman, a veterinarian and owner of the hospital.


http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/0326ManInfectsDog0326.html

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That is why pet owners need to use caution. If you are sick with any illness you should have someone else take care of your pets whenever possible. If that is not an option then consider what you need to do to protect them from illness. Wearing a mask (N95) and gloves while feeding them is not unreasonable if one has a virulent illness. After all when the cook in the house is sick others prepare family meals so as to avoid passing on the illness, the same rules should apply to feeding and caring for pets. It is a reasonable safety measure for the pet and for the pet owner.
It might also be safer for our pets to isolate ourselves from them as much as possible if we are ill. Those travel crates or taining cages are good for this if it is the only way to isolate them. It may seem cruel at first but it is lass cruel than letting them get sick.
Plan ahead: Write down what your pets care needs are and post it near where your pet's food, medicines and other supplies are kept. That way other's will know what to do to care for your pet if you are ill.
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