Several million pet-related infections occur in humans in the United States each year. The exact scope of the problem is not known, as many zoonotic diseases are underdiagnosed or not reportable to health authorities. Toxoplasmosis and toxocariasis, both parasitic infections, are among the most common zoonoses. Other parasitic infections include cutaneous larva migrans, echinococcosis, Dipylidium infection, cryptosporidiosis, and giardiasis. Zoonotic bacterial infections include campylobacteriosis and salmonellosis (the most common), cat scratch disease, leptospirosis, methicillin-resistant Staphylo-coccus aureus infection, Lyme disease, pasteurellosis, psittacosis, brucellosis, and Mycobacterium marinum infection ("fish tank granuloma"). Viral infections (lymphocytic choriomeningitis, rabies, and monkeypox), arthropod infections (scabies), and fungal infections (dermatophytosis) can also be transmitted by pets. Clinical disease in humans can range from self-limited skin conditions to life-threatening systemic illness. Treatment is specific to the infection, although many infections are self-limiting. Specific preventive guidelines include common sense measures, such as adequate handwashing, appropriate disposal of animal waste, and ensuring the diagnosis and treatment of infected animals. The chance of owners acquiring zoonotic disease can be reduced with routine veterinary care of pets. High-risk people (ie, immunocompromised persons, pregnant women, children under the age of 5 years, and the elderly) should undertake special precautions. Tick control and avoidance of feeding raw meat to pets can help reduce pathogenic transmissions. The benefits of ownership outweigh potential infectious disease risks; and increased communication between physicians and veterinarians can improve treatment and prevention of zoonotic disease.
COMMENTARY: One world, one health, one medicine: Beyond simply proactively talking to clients about potential zoonotic disease risks, we veterinarians should also be communicating with local human health organizations and physicians to share knowledge and discuss topics that affect both populations of patients.
Pet-related infections. Rabinowitz PM, Gordon Z, Odofin L. AM FAM PHYSICIAN 76:1314-1322, 2007.