Does your pet sleep with you? If so, you may want to reconsider that habit. The Centers for Disease Control has released a report indicating that sleeping with pets and letting them lick your face could spread germs that cause diseases.
In one case cited by the study, an adult male and his wife were infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections repeatedly until it was determined their dog was the carrier of the disease. After four months of treatment, the disease was finally cleared from them. They were fortunate because MRSA can be deadly. From 1999-2005, the average number of yearly deaths caused by MRSA in the United States was approximately 5,500. The dog was not affected by the disease the whole time its owners kept getting dangerously sick. It slept in their bed and was allowed to lick their faces.
A 2009 study found meningitis in newborns can be caused by even incidental contact with domestic dogs or cats. Researchers reviewed 38 cases in published research studies on meningitis and newborns. Of those babies that were a month old or younger with the disease, 27 had been exposed to pets in the home.
An adult woman who contracted meningitis in 2010 kissed her dog and fed it from her mouth.
Another possible source of infection from pets: roundworm. Roundworm is very common in young puppies, and can cause vision loss in humans, typically young children. About 700 people suffer vision loss each year from roundworm infection in the United States. Roundworm eggs are typically found in puppy and kitten feces, though adult dogs and cats can also pass them. “The importance of roundworm egg contamination of the yard is exacerbated by the fact that eggs can remain viable for many months (even for several years if in a protected location), and it is virtually impossible to kill the eggs with chemical disinfectants. Thus, the backyard is the major source of infective eggs to children. Once the yard becomes contaminated with roundworm eggs, there is little that can be done to remove or kill the eggs other than waiting for eggs to die naturally or physically removing the surface soil layer. Good hygiene, hand washing, and prevention of pica is extremely important in reducing the risk for infection on a contaminated property.” (Source: Medscape.com)
In 2008 a Centers for Disease Control study found sleeping with a dog could increase the risk of contracting the plague. The Centers for Disease Control also says most plague cases are transmitted from fleas that carry the disease from biting rodents, so it is important to keep all rodents away from your home. If they are near, fleas that bite them could transmit plague to you or your pets.
Risk of infection from your pet is still relatively small, though it pays to be informed. Proper care and safe practices will keep both you and your pet healthy.