When you’re sick, you probably cover your mouth and wash your hands often and stay away from other people. After all, you don’t want to share your germs. But researchers now also say you should be careful not to pass your illness to your pets.
Most people are aware that animals can pass sickness on to humans, but few realize that disease travels the other way as well. You can give your pets the flu. Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) and Iowa State University are studying the phenomenon.
“We worry a lot about zoonoses, the transmission of diseases from animals to people,” says Christiane Loehr, associate professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. “But most people don’t realize that humans can also pass diseases to animals, and this raises questions and concerns about mutations, new viral forms and evolving diseases that may potentially be zoonotic. And, of course, there is concern about the health of the animals.”
Through 2011 and 2012, researchers identified at least 13 cats and dogs that caught the H1N1 virus from humans. And some pet ferrets died from the infection. Researchers say that there are probably many more cases that go unreported.
“Any time you have infection of a virus into a new species, it’s a concern, a black box of uncertainty. We don’t know for sure what the implications might be, but we do think this deserves more attention,” Loehr warns.