As we have the potential of visiting those that may be susceptible to illness we need to ensure that we practice infection control.
Some of the things that you can do are:
• practice good hygiene
• wash your hands. Use sanitizers
• do not visit if you or your animal are not well
• if during a visit you come in contact with someone’s bodily fluid, you will need to remove your animal and clean up appropriately.
Health risks associated with contact with companion animals include bacterial and viral infections, parasitic infections, skin infections and allergies.
“Zoonoses” are infectious diseases which are transmitted from vertebrate animals to human beings under natural conditions spread by an infected animal or their feces. These infections occur worldwide and are associated with most species of animals.
While transmission of zoonoses is relatively infrequent, it is important to be aware of the potential for transmission and to take steps to lessen the risk. We need to recognize the ways that zoonoses are transmitted from animals to people (direct contact with the animal, contact with an infected animal, its feces or living environment, through bite or scratch incident or through inhalation), the degree of risk, and the steps to minimize the risks in our facilities.
The most common bacterial and viral infections are:
- Rabies; Salmonella; Streptococcal infections; Giardia; West Nile Virus
Parasitic infections include:
- Toxocariasis; Toxoplasmosis; Hookworms; Tapeworms; Pinworms; Roundworms
Skin infections include:
- Ringworm; Scabies; Fleas; Ticks;
Human and animal health experts agree that properly cared for animals should be allowed in facilities. The benefits of animal companionship far outweigh the risks. The transmission of diseases amongst humans and animals is relatively rare; however, it is important that we are aware that it can happen.
One of the most common health concerns is Allergies:
The risk of allergic reaction can be affected by choice of animal and breed. For example, even individuals who have experienced sensitivity to animals in the past may not be affected by all species or even breeds.
The allergic reaction that results in an irritation to the skin is usually less problematic than a reaction that affects the respiratory system. However, it is still important to recognize that there may be residents or clients who are not able to handle an animal or should take precautions to avoid unnecessary discomfort.
The approach you and the facility will take to address concerns about allergies will depend on the prevalence and nature of known allergies.
Some examples of ways that allergies are dealt with are:
• Limiting the area where the animals are
• ensure that the area is well vented.
• Select a visiting/program area close to the exit to reduce animals in hallways, common areas
• Sweeping and damp mopping area after the visit
• Following hand washing protocols
• Limit exposure or do not expose those with known allergies to animals
There are things that responsible pet owners should do to help reduce the risk of transmission:
• have a regular vaccination and parasite prevention schedule
• try to avoid contact with wild animals
• clean up your animal’s feces in public areas and your own yard so they have a clean area to use and are not coming into contact with other animals’ contaminated feces
• check for fleas and other skin problems by running your hands through your animal’s coat on a regular basis.
• do not allow your animal to drink from the toilet.