Kissing Your Family Pet May Hold a Dangerous Fate

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May 28, 2005 | 26,310 views

Is there any perfectly safe pet? Perhaps not, for friendly, furry pets like hamsters, mice, rabbits, gerbils and guinea pigs have been blamed for salmonella-borne illnesses suffered by some 30 people in at least 10 states.

According to officials, this is the first known outbreak of salmonella illness tied to such pets (as salmonella infections are common from reptiles) and reveals a previously unknown public health risk.

The Victims

Many of the victims were children: six were hospitalized for vomiting, fever and severe diarrhea, and some passed the illness on to others. (The germ was resistant to five drugs spanning several classes of antibiotics.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began its investigation of the illness last year after a 5-year-old Minnesota boy was sickened with salmonella after playing and kissing a pet mouse that had severe diarrhea and later died. Tests indicated both the child and the pet had a drug-resistant strain of salmonella--a relative of the germ that causes typhoid fever.

What causes the strain to emerge? Diarrhea is common in rodents; many animal dealers use antibiotics routinely to prevent this. Health officials speculate such use may have spurred this multidrug-resistant strain of salmonella to emerge.

Some CDC Recommendations:

San Francisco Chronicle May 5, 2005

Contracting infections from pets is a health risk that very few of us consider serious. While snuggling up on the couch with your pet may seem like a harmless act to you, please be aware that this is not necessarily the case.

Aside from salmonella, the most common infections related to contact with household pets include:

Dogs and Cats

Birds

Reptiles

Other Animals

For complete details on the various infections that are transmissible by your pets, go to this link.

So, in light of all this information, should you get rid of your pets? Of course not. Following the CDC's simple recommendations should provide you with enough protection to be able to keep right on snuggling.

Also, please remember, when it comes to hand washing, antibacterial soaps are unnecessary and may even be harmful. Simple soap and water is usually sufficient.

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