H1N1, cats and keeping the entire family safe

November 5, 2009 at 6:38 pm Leave a comment

With the news yesterday about a cat in Iowa who contracted the H1N1 virus from other family members, it’s certain there’s no more timely topic than the one our Dr. Marty Becker already had lined up for today’s “The Dr. Oz Show.” (Check for local times and listings.)

Although the H1N1/feline story broke after the segment was taped, the bottom line remains the same: Get rid of the risk and keep the pet.

Over on the  PawNation site. Helena Sung wrote a good overview of the segment:

On Thursday’s episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Becker (of “Good Morning America” fame) talks about diseases you can catch from your dogs and cats. “Because we’re living more intimate lives with our pets – hugging and kissing our pets, and sleeping with them at night — we’re at more risk for catching certain zoonotic diseases from our dogs and cats,” Dr. Becker tells Paw Nation.

Foremost among those diseases come from MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), parasites and ringworm. The bacteria MRSA is resistant to many antibiotics. A study found that a full 50% of the houses that researchers inspected had MRSA lurking on kitchen and faucet handles, drains, and on high chairs and trash cans. The common denominator was pet cats. “Cat owners are eight times more likely to have MRSA in their homes,” says Dr. Becker. Moreover, the bacteria was “ping-ponging back and forth between humans and pets.”

Another alarming fact? “About 600 U.S. children lose their eyesight each year due to roundworm larvae,” says Dr. Becker, “which they contract from soil that has contaminated dog feces, which doesn’t have to be from your dog, but from any dog feces off the street.” With respect to parasites, Dr. Becker points out that our pets can bring deer ticks into the home, which can cause Lyme disease in humans.

Who is most at risk for contracting zoonotic diseases? “The very young, the very old, and those with weakened immune systems from HIV or chemotherapy, and pregnant women,” Dr. Becker says.

Before you banish your pet from the house or vow to keep them at arm’s length, Dr. Becker points out that the goal is to get rid of the risk, not the pet. “If you lose the intimacy, you lose the healing power of pets,” he says.

Read the rest, and check your local listings — you may still be able to catch today’s airing of “The Dr. Oz Show.”  Our Dr. Becker also suggests a review of the petsandparasites.org site for information on how keeping pets healthier keeps people healthier.

Update: ABC News interviewed our (OK, and Purdue’s) Dr. Tony Johnson after he and Christie collaborated on the story for this blog. From the ABC News site:

This could be a thing that just fizzles out but it also has the potential for huge impact,” said Tony Johnson, a clinical assistant professor at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. “We have these little fuzzy things living in our house that could be vectors for nasty diseases.”

Johnson isn’t so worried that cats will spread the flu to humans: “Most influenza viruses are not going to kill you,” he said.

Rather, he worries cat owners might abandon their animals at the first sign of a sniffle.

“I think that’s what’s going to wig people out,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to see the shelters filled with cats and dogs tomorrow.”

Neither do we, Dr. T. Neither do we.


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