Have you heard about the tragic case of the 10-year-old boy from San Diego who died from an infection that he allegedly caught from his new pet rat? The disease is called rat bite fever.
Despite its name, bites aren’t the only way transmission can occur. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people most commonly contract rat bite fever through:
Rat bite fever is a zoonosis — a disease that can be transmitted from animals to people. According to the World Health Organization, over 200 zoonotic diseases have been identified. In fact, most infectious diseases that affect people got their start as animal diseases. And before all you owners of “traditional” pets think this topic only applies to people who choose to live with “weird” animals, dogs and cats can be carriers of around 30 zoonotic diseases.
Zoonotic diseases are generally spread from animals to people by one of three routes:
Disease transmission may be directly from animal to person or via fomites (contaminated objects).
Protecting yourself and your loved ones from zoonotic diseases is in large part a matter of common sense. Here are a few helpful reminders:
Immunosuppressed people, including those who have HIV/AIDS, are on chemotherapy, have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants, or splenectomies, and the very young or old are at higher than average risk for zoonotic diseases. Consult with a doctor before having contact with animals if you or a family member falls into one of these categories.
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