I have four Chesapeake Bay Retrievers that I love very much and occasionally as I buzz around the 'net looking for news on the PanFlu front I come across information about other zoonoses (any infectious disease that may be transmitted from other animals, both wild and domestic, to humans or from humans to animals (the latter is sometimes called reverse zoonosis). Today there were two such items.
The Associated Press
Oct. 28, 2007 03:45 PM
MELVILLE, N.Y. - Some veterinarians are documenting more and more cases of drug-resistant staph infections in dogs and cats, but say there is no reason for alarm among pet owners if they follow measures of simple hygiene.
Dr. Lewis Gelfand, a Long Beach, N.Y., veterinarian, said he's treating an increasing number of animals with skin eruptions infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus - MRSA. The cases seem to have increased, he said, in recent months.
"It's definitely a rapidly expanding problem," Gelfand said, adding that he has had 19 cases in dogs in the past year. "I believe it is a significantly underdiagnosed problem. We have been seeing dermatological cases as well as open sores.
From The Times
October 29, 2007
The international trade in exotic pets such as monkeys, crocodiles and rats must be stopped if human beings are to be protected from global pandemics, a leading microbiologist has cautioned.
Dorothy Crawford, Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of Edinburgh, said that the risk to people from zoonoses – animal-borne microbes – had never been greater, and that there was a need to reexamine our relationship with wild and domestic animals.
Professor Crawford also predicted that global travel would need to be restricted in the event of an avian flu pandemic.
Most emerging infections, including HIV, severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and bird flu had been acquired from animals and no one could say how many other devastating diseases could yet mutate to human beings, Professor Crawford said. "Who knows what could be hiding around the corner? We really have to think about what we are doing," she said.
Professor Crawford highlighted the example of a consignment of giant Gambian rats, which were flown from Ghana into the US as exotic pets. The rats carried monkeypox virus, which transferred to prairie dogs that were sold in the same pet shop. The prairie dogs then passed the disease to their human buyers. The chain of infection was only terminated after the microbe had infected 71 people. In another instance, crocodiles being farmed in Papua New Guinea to provide luxury items for the West had been infected by a virus from wild pig meat, which crossed to their keeper.
Professor Crawford, whose new book Deadly Companions was published last week, said that it was "only a matter of time" before the growing tourist demand for bush meat in Africa led to a new epidemic from microbes jumping from their primate host. She said that common sense could be as helpful as scientific advancement in preventing pandemics. "Microbes are always going to be one step ahead of us. Their generation time is 24 hours, ours is 30 years. They mutate, they change, they will find a way. They are amazing opportunists," she said.
I will probably always have dogs as the unconditional love and devotion that bestow so willingly and abundantly is something that my own heart seems to require. Coming home after a long day at work and looking into their big brown eyes just melts the weight of the day away. But having animals as members of our families requires us to be as diligent with their health and wellbeing as our own. It is also incumbent upon us to understand the issues that living with animals brings to ourselves and the humans we also love.
If we are not responsible pet owners I fear that we will start to suffer public backlash as more and more information on zoonosis becomes available and understood. If that day does come I hope I am long since so much scattered dust.