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How to Prevent Your Kids from Acquiring Zoonotic Disease

Zoonotic diseases, or zoonoses, are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people and from people to animals.

How are zoonotic diseases transmitted?

Transmission of a zoonotic disease can potentially occur when a person comes into direct contact with secretions or excretions—such as saliva or feces—from an infected animal. Additionally, a disease may be contracted through contact with water or food that has been contaminated by an infected animal. Many zoonotic diseases can be transmitted from fleas or ticks (called vectors) to a person or a cat or dog from another animal.

How to Prevent Your Kids from Acquiring a Zoonotic Disease

Make sure they wash their hands: This may sound obvious, but we all know how hard it is to keep children’s hands clean, and to make sure they wash them long enough, and well enough.

Use soap and a constant stream of water, scrubbing for a minimum of 20 seconds. Have your kids sing the alphabet song during the scrubbing time. Wash hands before eating, after touching animals (particularly farm, petting zoo, or exotic species), after removing dirty clothing, after contact with dirt, and after using the bathroom. Hand sanitizer is good at reducing the number of bacteria, but is inadequate for removing organic debris, which is where bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites can hide.

Minimize and contain feces if in your home and in your yard: If you have a litter box in your home make sure to clean the litter box at least every 24 hours. There are particular organisms, including Toxoplasma gondii, which are shed in cat feces that do not become infective until after 24 hours. The same is true for various parasites found in dog feces. By scooping the litterbox or cleaning the yard daily, you are greatly reducing the number of parasites available for reinfection. It is also recommended that you have your cats nails clipped so that they can’t scratch you.

To prevent a hookworm infestation, it’s important to get rid of any potentially infective feces from wild or stray animals around your property that might tempt your dog or a barefoot two-legged member of your family. It’s also a good idea to keep your pet away from the poop of other animals while you’re walking or hiking outdoors.

Many doctors recommend pregnant women not scoop or sanitize their cat’s litter box. If you have a toxoplasmosis-positive cat, she’s apt to be shedding the infection into her stool.

It is also recommended that if you and your family are gardening, to use protective gloves and shoes.

Avoid contact with wild animals. Make it a priority to teach your children that while cute, wild animals can carry several contagious organisms, yet seemingly appear to be healthy. Wild animals are just that, wild, and you should teach your children to stay away from them. Children should not be allowed to kiss pets or to put their hands or other objects into their mouths after handling animals. Children younger than 5 years old should be supervised while interacting with animals.

If you have a pet bird, have it tested for Psittacosis. Pet birds can carry an organism called Chlamydophila psittaci, also known as Psittacosis. This bacterium is shed in feces, ocular secretions, and nasal secretions of birds. Infection in people can be very serious. Teach your children to avoid touching those areas of the bird. Bird cage linings should be cleaned daily. Wear gloves whenever handling items contaminated with bird droppings.

If you have an outdoor sandbox, keep it covered. Stray or outdoor cats, raccoons and other wildlife view your sandbox as a litter box. By keeping it covered when not in use, you are preventing stray animals and wildlife from using it as their litter box, thereby reducing the risk of serious conditions caused by hookworms and roundworms.

Don’t eat or feed raw or under cooked meat. Cooking meat to the appropriate temperature is a sure step to prevent parasitic infection. Many types of parasitic larvae will inhabit the muscle of certain animals, just waiting to be ingested so they can develop into adult parasites. Wash all vegetables thoroughly before you serve them to any family member, human or fur covered.

If you feed your pet a raw food diet, it is recommended that you freeze fresh meat for three days to kill off any toxoplasmosis living in the tissues. This will make the meat safer for you to handle and healthy for your pet to eat.

Use flea and tick preventives. Fleas and ticks can carry a variety of infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Your dog or cat, being lower to the ground, are at a higher risk of getting flea and tick infestations. By using flea and tick preventives, you are reducing the number of infectious disease carriers that enter your house.

If you have a pet cat or dog, keep it from drinking contaminated water. Water that has been contaminated by other animals, either by feces or urine, has the potential to contain a multitude of infectious organisms that your dog can then transmit to you or your family. It is a good idea to bring a bowl and fresh water with you on your outdoor excursions.

Keep up on routine veterinary care. Routine veterinary care, including fecal tests, blood tests, and vaccinations, are very important and should not be ignored.  Consider it not only for your pet’s health, but also for the health of you and your family.

This should include using monthly heart-worm preventive religiously. Many brands of heart-worm preventive also contain dewormers. Dogs and cats are often times re-infected with intestinal parasites, several of which can be removed on a monthly basis by staying up to date on heart-worm preventive.

Keep Your Home Wildlife and Infestation Free. Homeowners should place great importance on keeping their home wildlife and infestation free. Pets that come into contact with wildlife are likely to bring contaminants into the home after contact. For example, if you have wildlife living on your property – under the shed or deck then the likelihood of your dog or outdoor cat coming having a run-in with wildlife and becoming infected with a zoonotic disease increases.

It is important to not allow your property to present harborage and den sites for wild animals that may transfer diseases to your pets, which in turn can pass them onto your family members. Examples of this could include rabid skunks or raccoons living on your property and engaging with your pets.

If you do have wildlife making its home on your property, for health and safety reasons it is important to call a professional wildlife control company to humanely remove and exclude them. They are trained and equipped on how to deal with wildlife safely, to minimize the risks, especially if an animal is indeed infected with a zoonotic disease.

Family members who have a weakened or a compromised immune system, such as those who are receiving chemotherapy, who have AIDS, or who are chronically ill, are at a much higher risk of obtaining severe zoonotic diseases. Strict guidelines must be followed to reduce risk of zoonotic disease transmission. In some cases, this may include complete avoidance of farm animals, petting zoos, and exotic species.

Keep your children safe by keeping your property wildlife free. Call Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control today. 1-888-592-0387.

Proudly serving: Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Brampton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Cambridge, Sudbury, St. Catharines and the Niagara Region.

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About the author:Founder of Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control in 1989. Canada's largest urban wildlife removal and exclusion company. Industry leader and pioneer. Split, Scram, Scoot! However you want to say it, Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control has helped over 200,000 home owners and businesses safely and effectively resolve their wildlife issues. Happy to discuss business and franchising opportunities

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