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SLEEPING WITH PETS CAN KILL YOU
From parasites to the plague, sleeping with pets can be dangerous. (Photo by Tom Sperduto)
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 WHAT CAN BE DONE?
SLEEPING WITH PETS CAN KILL YOU

Posted 12/1/2012   Updated 1/8/2013 Email story   Print story

    


by Andrew Schneider

12/1/2012 - AMERICA ON-LINE (AOL) News -- Medical researchers have long shown that contact with pets can often help both the physically and mentally ill. But now, veterinary scientists say sleeping with your pets increases the chances of contracting everything from parasites to the plague.

What's a pet owner to do?

Most U.S. households have pets, and more than half of those cats and dogs are allowed to sleep in their owner's beds, Drs. Bruno Chomel, a professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, and Ben Sun, chief veterinarian for California's Department of Health, say in a study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Emerging Infectious Diseases.

"We wanted to raise the attention of people, as sleeping with a pet is becoming quite common, and there are risks associated with it, even if it is not very frequent," Chomel said. "But when it occurs, especially in children or immunocompromised people, it can be very severe."

The authors, both experts in zoonoses, which are diseases or infections transmitted from animals to humans, reported that "the risk for transmission of zoonotic agents by close contact between pets and their owners through bed sharing, kissing or licking is real and has even been documented for life-threatening infections such as plague, internal parasites" and other serious diseases.

How many of us admit to others that we sleep with our furry friends? Many of us do, according to the study. Among dog owners, 56 percent admit they sleep with their dog next to them, the researchers reported. As strange as it may be to canine lovers, more people have cats than dogs, and these felines also carry disease. This study and several others show that disease from cats is far more prevalent, and often more serious.

The number of cats snuggling up with their owner is far greater, which may explain the larger number of people acquiring feline-spawned diseases, Chomel explained.

Take cat scratch disease, for example. The bacterial infection, caused by Bartonella henselae, comes from infected fleas and flea feces and is transmitted to humans, often simply by a cat strolling across a food preparation area that isn't disinfected before food is placed on it. Mostly, the victims of cat scratch disease are children, infected by the scratch, lick or bite of a cat. The pathogen can cause swelling of lymph nodes and sometimes lethal damage to the liver, kidney and spleen of humans.

The CDC estimates that more than 20,000 people can contract cat scratch disease a year, but the federal disease agency could offer no information on the number of deaths.

In one example, though, a 9-year-old boy from Arizona got the plague because he slept with his flea-infested cat.

Kissing pets can also transmit zoonoses. A Japanese woman contracted meningitis after kissing her pet's face.

Other diseases can easily be transmitted by your pet kissing or licking you.

The study cited cases where a woman died of septic shock and renal failure after her cat, with which she slept, licked open sores on her feet and toes. In another case, a 44-year-old man died of infection after his German shepherd puppy licked open abrasions on his hands.

The risk of getting sick from being close with your pets is real, but most of the diseases they pass on to humans can be identified and eliminated by regular veterinary care.

Meanwhile, start practicing saying, "Get off the bed." ... And mean it this time.



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