Zoonotic diseases are those that are transmissible from animals to people, such as roundworms and toxoplasmosis. While zoonotic diseases are a risk throughout the year, summer poses a greater risk due to the tendency of humans, especially children, to play outdoors in sandboxes and gardens where animals tend to defecate. Protecting your family and your pets from these diseases is essential, as some can cause blindness or other serious complications.
Common Zoonotic Diseases
The most common zoonotic diseases to pose a risk to both pets and people include roundworm, tapeworm, whipworm, hookworm, ringworm, giardiasis, mange, and toxoplasmosis. Most people will become infected with at least one of these during their lifetime. In fact, roundworm infection is the sixth most commonly reported disease in Americans, and hookworms infect more than 4,000 people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Zoonotic diseases are typically transmitted from pets to people when animals defecate in sand or soil where humans walk. When people come into contact with contaminated ground, the parasites in the sand or soil penetrate the skin and cause infection. The increased numbers of people outside barefoot explains why these diseases are most common during the summer months.
Some diseases are transmitted via direct contact with an infected animal. Rabies, for example, is a fatal disease transmitted to humans by a bite from a bat, raccoon, fox, or other rabid animal. Avian influenza and some bacterial diseases are also spread via direct contact.
Preventing the Spread of Zoonotic Diseases
Although zoonotic diseases are treatable, they may cause permanent damage in some cases. Because of this, prevention is key. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends professional deworming of pets to help prevent parasitic infection, and regularly treating your home and yard for fleas, lice, and other insects.
Keep your child’s sandbox covered at all times when not in use, forbid your children from using public sandboxes, wear gloves when gardening or changing pet litter, and wear shoes outdoors at all times. Also, keep food and waste out of your yard to avoid attracting wildlife, and do not ever feed your pet raw or undercooked meat. Doing so increases their risk of contracting parasitic infections.
If you live in an area with a large number of bats, raccoons, stray cats, and other wildlife, consult your local animal control agency for advice. Trapping and relocating displaced wildlife and fencing in your yard may help keep your children and pets safe from potentially dangerous animals. Also, keep current on local threats to health; most communities regularly release bulletins alerting citizens to an increased risk of disease or animal encounter.
This important information was provided by VetDepot.com. To learn more about VetDepot, click here.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usgao/6323431516/sizes/m/in/photostream/