Pets increase the risk of infection

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Pets increase the risk of infection

Keeping pets often results in an increased risk of infection from a wide variety of diseases, warns Professor Volker Schuster from the Clinic for Children and Adolescents at Leipzig University Hospital in an interview with the "dpad" news agency. The risk of infection is underestimated by many pet owners, the expert continues.

The infections caused by pets can have considerable negative effects on health, the Leipzig doctor explained. For example, "about every tenth child with Salmonella in the blood caught the pathogen through contact with pets," emphasized Schuster. According to the expert, not only ordinary pets such as cats, dogs or guinea pigs can be considered as carriers of dangerous infectious diseases, but also exotic animals such as snakes, turtles and iguanas.

Salmonella infections from pets
According to the professor at Leipzig University Hospital, keeping pets, for example, increases the risk of Salmonella infection. Through contact with dogs, cats, but also turtles, snakes and iguanas, the pathogens can be transmitted relatively easily and cause serious health problems, the expert explained. When the animals are petted, the pathogens get on their hands and from there, for example, through contact with food in the mouth. Therefore, thorough hand washing is advisable after contact with the animals, warned Professor Schuster. This applies to snakes and iguanas as well as to dogs or cats, since contact with the skin of the animals can lead to a salmonella infection (salmonellosis). The consequences pose a significant health risk, especially for children and people who are already weakened. Typical symptoms include fever, cramping abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. In the worst case, however, the infection can be fatal, as illustrated by the approximately 30 deaths per year reported by the Robert Koch Institute in Germany. In view of the existing risk, pet owners should "naturally ask themselves whether you should really keep snakes or iguanas in an apartment where small children also play," explained Professor Schuster.

Hygiene rules reduce the risk of infection
According to the expert, compliance with a few simple hygiene rules could help to protect against a salmonella infection, "but these are not always observed." If the parents are asked to pay attention to hygiene, the expert continues. In about ten percent of cases in which salmonella is detected in the children's blood, the pathogens were transmitted through contact with pets, and “the salmonella can sometimes still be detected in the children's stool even after months,” emphasized Professor Schuster in an interview with the news agency "dapd". According to the figures from the Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung (GfK), the increased risk of infection from pets applies to around 15 million of the 40 million households in Germany. According to GfK, cats live in almost eight million households and dogs in five million households. According to GfK, birds (for example budgerigars) and rodents such as guinea pigs and hamsters are also particularly popular pets.

Parrot disease and monkey pox
According to Professor Schuster, budgies can be infected with the parrot disease, which is also transferable to humans and brings with it significant health problems. The infectious disease caused by so-called chlamydia manifests itself in humans as severe pneumonia and can be fatal without medical treatment, explained Schuster. According to the Leipzig physician, keeping rats may also pose an increased risk of infection, as they can transmit the so-called monkey pox to humans. The course of an infection with ape pox is similar to an infection with human smallpox viruses, which have been considered eradicated since the 1970s. But "luckily, monkey pox generally takes a easier course in humans" than an infection with the human smallpox virus, explained the Leipzig doctor. Overall, however, the health risk from infections transmitted by pets should not be underestimated and pet owners should always be aware of this risk, the expert warned.

Reduced allergy risk from pets However, the increased risk of infection from keeping pets is offset by a reduced susceptibility to allergies, according to the results of a study published in early June in the journal "Clinical & Experimental Allergy" by scientists from the Detroit Henry Ford Hospital. In their investigations, Ganesa Wegienka and colleagues found that the allergy risk of adolescents is primarily determined in the first few years of life and that contact with pets does not result in an increased allergy risk as previously assumed, but rather tends to reduce this. For example, according to the US researchers, adolescents who have close contact with cats in the first year of life are at around 50 percent less risk of allergies to cat hair. Although this positive correlation could not be confirmed to the same extent in all animals, as a tendency a reduced allergy risk for contact with pets can be recorded for adolescents, said Wegienka and colleagues. (fp)

Also read:
Recognize pain in animals
Appropriate dog nutrition
Dog osteopathy - osteopathy for dogs
Cats and dogs reduce allergy risk
Dog saliva can cause infections

Image: Vera Winandy-Rang /

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