A new report shows that people with compromised immune systems should take special care in selecting their pets. According to an article from Reuters Health, researchers say that immune-compromised patients, the elderly, children, and pregnant women, should be especially careful when selecting and caring for animals as pets, as they are at a greater risk of contracting infections from them.
Pets have important health benefits, including emotional and social support the lead author of the study Dr. Jason Stuff of the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine at Ohio State University, Columbus said, but contracting infections from a pet is common.
“The biggest issue comes down to really recognizing when individuals are at greater risk,” he said to Reuters Health.
The researchers say that in addition to pregnant women, adults over 65, children under 5, and those with weak immune systems, organ donors and recipients are also at risk of a pet-related infection. The study shows that pets can transmit up to 70 infections, usually via feces, urine, or saliva.
The most risky pets include reptiles, amphibians, fish, rodents, and young chickens. Cats can also spread infections such as toxoplasma gondii. Among the safest animals are mature and well-cared for dogs and cats.
The study reviewed over 300 previous studies on pets and human infections, though many of them were small. The researchers hope to create guidelines for patients, doctors, and veterinarians, as they noted many do not talk about pet-to-human infection transmission, nor to do doctors or vets ask about potentially at-risk people living in the home.
While none of the researchers are advocating people get rid of their pets, they do ask people to be cautious when selecting pets, especially if an immuno-compromised person is living in the home. They also add that precautions should be taken when cleaning animal areas like aquariums and litter boxes, such as using rubber gloves and washing hands thoroughly afterwards, and discouraging your pets from licking and sleeping in your bed.