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When you spend time around an animal—whether it's a pet, a farm animal, or a wild animal—there's a chance you can pick up an infection.
An infection you get from an animal is called a zoonosis (say "zoh-uh-NOH-sus"). Some infections can seem mild, but others can be quite serious. So it's a good idea to learn about your risks and how to protect yourself and other people. People who are most in need of protection are children under age 5, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems.
Washing your hands well may be all you need to do to prevent infection from some animals. But with others, you need to do more than simple hand washing.
You can get a zoonosis from a mammal, a reptile, an amphibian, or a bird. It could be a pet, an animal at a farm or a petting zoo, or a wild animal that passes infection on to you.
It's not just touching an animal that can expose you to bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. You can get infected when you:
Before you travel, learn about common animal-borne infection risks where you're going. Then learn how to protect yourself from them.
To lower your risk of getting a disease from an animal:
Even pets that seem to be healthy can spread disease. Common infections you can get from pets include:
E. coli is a common infection that can cause a dangerous type of diarrhea. You can be infected by cattle on a farm or by sheep or goats in a petting zoo.
When you're pregnant, be extra careful around animals, foods from animals, and animal waste. Wash your hands after you touch an animal or anything that could have been contaminated by an animal.
Protect your unborn baby from dangerous infections from animals or animal products. Stay clear of possible sources of lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV) and toxoplasmosis.
Ask your doctor if there are any other local types of infection you should protect against during pregnancy.
To learn more about infections from animals, see the Centers for Disease Control at http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/.
May 8, 2013
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Leslie Tengelsen, DVM, PhD
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