Whether you’re the proud owner of a cuddly kitten, a loyal, fun-loving dog, or a cute hamster, chances are that you get many things from your pet — unconditional love, good company, and reduced stress, for starters. Unfortunately, scores of infectious organisms — from bacteria to fungi to viruses — can also be transmitted from your pet to you.
“We don’t live in a sterile world, and the animals that are our pets and companions are not free of germs,” says Susan Rehm, MD, vice chair of the Cleveland Clinic Infectious Disease Department in Ohio. “It occasionally happens that you can pick up a disease from your pet.” The elderly, the very young, pregnant women, and people with a compromised immune system are most vulnerable, according to a review of 500 studies, published in The Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Here’s a guide to some of the pet-to-people illnesses you should be aware of — with advice on how to keep from catching them.