Published On: Sat, Dec 8th, 2012

5 Animals Most Likely to Give You a Disease

5 Animals Most Likely to Give You a DiseaseWhen you think of animals, you probably imagine playful dogs, fluffy rabbits, or other favorite animals. Animals have been a companion to humans almost since the dawn of mankind. However, not all animals are safe to have as pets or to have contact with. Of course everyone knows that crocodiles and other dangerous animals can physically harm humans by attacking them; however, few people consider the fact that even cute and cuddly animals can carry infectious diseases that can cause severe illness or even death for humans.

Raccoon

Raccoon look cute and have the reputation for being mischievous scamps. Tame raccoon are often the darling of petting zoos and wildlife centers around the world. However, wild raccoon are extremely dangerous because they are prone to biting when they feel threatened and they are the prime carriers for the rabies virus, according to The Immunization Action Coalition. In 2008, 34.9 percent of all rabies cases attributable to a wild animal were caused by raccoon.

To avoid contracting rabies, do not touch wild raccoon. If you have a problem with a nuisance raccoon getting into your trash or causing another problem, contact your local animal control. Trained professionals know how to handle raccoons safely.

Turtles

Hardly anyone imagines a turtle as being a dangerous animal. However, turtles are one of the prime culprits for human infection with the salmonella bacteria, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Turtles, snakes, and most other reptiles carry the salmonella bacteria in their intestinal tracts. Their skin and shells can easily become contaminated with the bacteria through contact with their feces. When humans touch turtles and other reptiles, the bacteria can get on their skin and cause illness if it is accidentally ingested or if the person later rubs their eyes or touched their nose, mouth, or an open wound.

To protect yourself from salmonella, wash your hands thoroughly with hot water and antibacterial soap immediately after touching turtles or other reptiles. Because small children often forget to wash their hands or do not wash thoroughly, turtles and other reptiles are not ideal pets for them.

Mosquitos

Mosquitos are more than a spring and summertime nuisance. They can carry dangerous diseases that can make humans extremely ill or even cause death. Two common diseases that mosquitos carry include the West Nile Virus and malaria. Although malaria is less common in non-tropical areas, it is beginning to spread because of the banning of DDT and other chemicals that limited their populations. West Nile virus is an increasing problem in the Southern United States, where it is exacerbated by standing pools of water left from the evaporation of lakes, streams, and other bodies of water affected by the drought. Many communities have begun to spray for mosquitos to limit the spread of the virus.

To protect yourself from malaria, visit a physician before you travel to a country or location that is affected by the malaria virus. He or she can provide you with anti-malarial pills. To guard against the West Nile virus, dump buckets of water and drain stagnant pools of water on your property during West Nile outbreaks.

Cats

Many households in the United States and other developed countries have one or more cats. They are one of our most beloved companion animals. However, cats can pass dangerous bacteria that can make humans seriously ill. The prime disease that some cats carry is the toxoplasmosis parasite. This parasite is passed in the feces of the affected cat, where it can be transmitted to humans when they clean the litter box, according to MedicineNet.com. In addition, cat bites can be extremely dangerous because a cat’s mouth harbors a wide variety of dangerous bacteria.

To protect yourself from toxoplasmosis, wear rubber gloves when you clean the litter box and clean it outside. Never place a cat’s litterbox or clean it near a bathtub or near food preparation areas. This increases the risk for contamination. To protect yourself from the ill effects of cat bites, keep your cat’s vaccinations up to date. This will not eliminate all harmful bacteria in your cat’s mouth, but it can decrease your risk of contracting a serious illness if you are bitten.

Mice and Rats

Mice and rats are some of the most hated animals in America. This is not just because of their appearance, but because they are notorious for carrying a wide variety of illnesses. Hantavirus, the bubonic plague, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, and a variety of other viruses and bacteria are carried by rats and mice.

To protect yourself, do not touch rats or mice that have invaded your home or your trash. Get rid of them humanely or kill them with traps, or call an exterminator. Rats and mice sold by pet stores are probably safe, however, as they are typically bred and kept in hygienic conditions.

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Rosemarie King is a public health administrator and guest author who contributed to the guide to the Top Online Masters in Public Health Programs.

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