Zoonotic diseases (also called Zoonosis) can pass from animals to humans. Although, most diseases are species specific. Most diseases pose no threat to humans and are treatable. Rabies while rare, is a dangerous disease and any zoonotic disease can pose a dangerous threat to those with poor immune systems.
This article’s purpose is to provide a short, simple guide to Zoonosis and is not all-inclusive and focuses on cat-related Zoonosis. Many people have had Zoonosis-related diseases and never realized it!
Ringworm is a fungus not a worm. Some Persian cats can be nonsystematic carriers (meaning it does not have any symptoms of Ringworm but sheds the spores and keep infecting other cats in the household or keeps giving it to owners). Nearly 40% of cats may have Ringworm without any symptoms. Vets who treat cats with Ringworm, are familiar with seeing owners with red, scaly, itchy patches of skin. Humans with Ringworm normally have circular scaly patches. To diagnose Ringworm in cats, a culture is done.
Proper treatment of Ringworm is essential to remove it from the household. Fungal spores can fly off the cat and land some distance away or get into the home’s ventilation system, maine coon cats for sale on furniture, clothes, etc. Treatment for cats with Ringworm is with oral medication and dips or baths. Human treatment is usually by antifungal creams. When a cat owner gets Ringworm they often think it is eczema and seek treatment. As with other skin diseases, it may be itchy and continued scratching may cause scarring.
Secondary infectious agents often follow viral or bacterial infections. Bacteria may be present in diarrhea which results in cross-infection (solid stools buried in litter are less infectious). Common zoonotic bacteria respond well to antibiotics. Some cat breeders routinely dose their cats with antibiotics in an attempt to reduce disease in the cattery. However, the overuse of antibiotics leads to an increase in antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
Various conditions can cause feline conjunctivitis (eye infection) including bacterial or viral infections. Conjunctivitis caused by a foreign body may lead to a secondary bacterial infection. Since some of these germs can also infect humans, it is wise to follow basic hygiene precautions when handling cats with conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is easily treatable in cats (and humans) with eye drops and eye ointments – often containing the same active ingredients.
Carefully clean cat bite wounds with antiseptic or antibiotic cleansers and apply an antibiotic ointment. Immediately see your veterinarian if there are signs of wound inflammation, persistent swelling or fever which may need antibiotics. Most healthy adults will recover without treatment; but you may not wish to risk your health.
Salmonella bacteria is more common in the feces of cats fed raw meat or those that catch wild birds. Infection follows a fecal-oral route (you clean the litter box and scratch your lip without first washing your hands).
Cat Scratch Disease (Cat Scratch Fever)
The bacteria, Bartonella henselae, causes cat scratch fever. It does not usually cause fever. Fleas carry the bacteria from cat to cat. Cat Scratch Disease causes systemic illness and lymph node lesions and can be serious in individuals with poor immune systems. Antibiotics usually cures the disease in healthy young adults. Long-term antibiotic treatment is necessary for sick cats. However, some cat suffer long-term infection no matter the treatment.
Cats pick up Toxoplasma infection by eating infected prey. In humans, Toxoplasmosis symptoms may be flu-like, usually there are no symptoms. Infection is more serious in individuals with poor immune systems. Pregnant women with Toxoplasmosis may have a baby with congenital issues.
Protect cats from infection by preventing access to birds, rodents, uncooked meat, and unpasteurized dairy products. Food preparation areas can be infectious to cats! Women who are pregnant (or trying to get pregnant) should avoid handling free-roaming cats to avoid contamination. This includes keeping indoor-outdoor cats off bedding, pillows and kitchen counters. Avoid cuddling a cat with diarrhea or bowel incontinence or one which has an illness.
Infected cats can transfer the tuberculosis causing mycobacteria to humans. It is dangerous to humans with poor immune systems. Since there is no effective treatment for cats to reduce the risk to humans, veterinarians recommend euthanasia for these cats. Tuberculosis is rare in cats.