Think your dog or cat can’t catch the flu from you? Think again. Veterinary researchers at Oregon State University and Iowa State University who have studied cases of human-to-pet disease transmission say it’s possible, and they are studying ways to reduce the risks to people and pets.
This concept, called "reverse zoonosis," has raised concern among some scientists and veterinarians, who are working to raise awareness and prevent further flu transmission to pets in the estimated 80-100 million U.S. households that have a cat or dog.
"We worry a lot about zoonoses, the transmission of diseases from animals to people," said Christiane Loehr, an associate professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, in a new study of the phenomenon published in the journal Veterinary Pathology. Editor’s Note: 3 Secrets to Never Get Sick Again. Get Super Immunity for Only $4.95. Click here.
"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."
Health experts have long known that new strains of influenza can evolve from animal populations such as pigs and birds and infect humans — as in the case of swine flu (H1N1). But many people may not know humans also passed swine flu to cats and other animals, some of which have died of respiratory illness.
Although there are only a handful of known cases, and the risks to public health remain unclear, said the OSU researchers who are surveying flu transmission to household cat and dog populations.
In the new report, the experts advise people with influenza-like illness distance themselves from their pets and have their animals examined by veterinarian if they appear to be ill after exposure to someone with the flu.Editor’s Note: 3 Secrets to Never Get Sick Again. Get Super Immunity for Only $4.95. Click here.
"It's reasonable to assume there are many more cases of this than we know about, and we want to learn more," Loehr said. "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."