Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wash Your Hands!

Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. As an animal control officer I have the potential to catch all kinds of icky things. I carry a double-sided card in my wallet that reads:

The holder of this card, by way of occupation, is routinely exposed to certain zoonotic diseases not routinely considered in differential diagnosis. In the event of serious illness of this individual, please consider:


* Brucellosis * Campylobacteriosis * Cat Scratch Disease * Cryptococcosis * 

* Cryptosporidiosis * Escherichia Coli * Giardiasis * Hantavirus * Herpes B *

* Histoplasmosis * Hookworm * Uncinaria Stenocephala * Leishmaniasis * Lyme

Disease * Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis * Monkey Pox * Plague * Psittacosis * Coxiella Burnetti * Rabies * Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever * Salmonellosis * Toxoplasmosis *

* Tuberculosis * Tularemia * West Nile Virus * Yersiniosis *

This list doesn't include the routine parasites and fungi all animal owners face -- things like fleas, ticks, scabies and ringworm. If you handle animals regularly you could be susceptible to this stuff as well. Are you totally grossed out now? Wondering how not to get all these disgusting things? A few simple tips:
  1. Wash your hands -- a lot -- especially after handling feces, reptiles, and/or turtles.
  2. Provide your animals with good flea and tick prevention (from the vet, not that crap you buy at Walmart). If Fluffy's not bringing fleas and ticks into the house, your chances of catching them drop considerably.
  3.  Routinely check your animals for fleas, ticks, flea dirt, open sores, hot spots and bald patches. If something doesn't look right, go to the vet! If your pet gets cooties, try not to take it personally. Even my pampered pup from an excellent breeder had demodex.
  4. Clean up animal waste regularly -- preferably when it's fresh -- and actually inspect it. (I know, eeewww.) Look for signs of worms. Round worms look like spaghetti; tape worms look like rice. Both are easy to treat. Also look for loose or bloody stools. Again, if you think something's hinky, go to the vet!
  5. When in doubt use a barrier protection, especially around unfamiliar animals. I wear latex gloves when cleaning the litter boxes of stray cats. I worked with a vet tech who wore a surgical mask in the cat room to protect herself from toxoplasmosis while she was pregnant.
  6. Pay attention to your own health. If something doesn't seem right, go to the doctor. Sometimes shit happens even when you're doing everything right. Despite my best efforts, I contracted ringworm (kittens are notorious for carrying it). Some of my friends and coworkers have had cat scratch disease, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever -- none of which were pleasant.
Hope this helps. -- K