For the first time ever, armadillos have caused considerable damage to our yard and landscaping. And it seems almost everybody I mention it to has experienced the same nuisance recently. When I was a kid, they were so rare people would pay to see one in a zoo! Be careful about touching them. They can transmit leprosy to humans through direct contact.
As I mentioned in a previous post, diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people are called zoonotic. Recently in Spain, a pet dog was euthanized for fear it might carry Ebola and infect people after it came in contact with an infected person.
However, you should not be concerned about your pet…
According to a recent article in Clinician’s Brief, the virus has never been found in the blood of a dog. The confusion stems from the fact that some dogs in Africa have demonstrated a positive titer for Ebola. A positive titer only means the dog’s immune system produced antibodies after being exposed to the virus in some way. Most of us have antibodies to various flu viruses, but we are not carriers of the disease.
For now, at least, none of us should spend any time or energy worrying about getting Ebola from our dog.
At the same time, all of these news stories got me to thinking about lessons we can learn from recent events related to Ebola.
- Remember the true value of vaccines. It’s easy to take the protection vaccines provide for granted. But stop and think how awesome it would be to have a vaccine for the Ebola virus. One for humans and for dogs.
- Keep the human-animal bond in perspective. No matter how much we may love our pet dogs, cats, ferrets, gerbils, turtles or snakes, we cannot afford to overlook the potential for disease transmission.
- Expect more of the same in the future.
- We frequently hear the term “emerging diseases” in reference to newly discovered pathogens (germs). Here is a quote from Info back in 2008, “Since 1980, on average, new human pathogens have been discovered at a rate of about 3 per year and there is no reason to assume this will come to an end.” And, “about 60% of new human infections originate in animals and are defined as zoonoses. Of the 1407 total species of pathogens that affect man, 59% are zoonotic.”
- Take a common sense approach to protect your family.
While we are fortunate to have professionals in government organizations like the CDC, each of us must take responsibility for our own well-being. There are many ways to accomplish that, but let’s look at some basic good health habits to get us started.
Three easy ways to protect your family from zoonotic diseases…
- Keep your pet(s) healthy. Make sure vaccinations are current. Treat and prevent external and internal parasites.
- Leave wild animals in their natural habitat. Never adopt a wild animal and bring it into your home. Yes, I did that as a kid. But, it was dangerous then and is even more so today.
- Wash your hands often with soap and running water. This is especially important for young children. Strangely enough, we are now learning that plain soap is better than antibacterial soap.
Editors note: Responses to questions received in my inbox are sent directly to the sender. Each week I plan to choose an interesting question to answer in more detail as a blog post.
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