By Heidi LePard, Great Falls Clinic Infection Preventionist

Baby animals are undeniable adorable! Who wouldn’t want to snuggle a newborn kitten, puppy, or even baby goat? They are all so cute and soft! But did you know that underneath their cuteness, many of these pets – and especially farm animals – can transmit diseases to humans? These are known as Zoonotic diseases, or diseases that are transmitted from vertebrate animals to humans.

So, what are some of the common illnesses that can be passed from animals to humans?

Puppies, kittens, and poultry can be carriers for camphylobacter. They are not always ill, but by handling them, humans can become exposed. The bacteria can cause a diarrheal illness to humans but can be easily treated with antibiotics. Undercooked poultry is a leading cause of camphylobacter caused diarrhea.

Hantavirus can be carried by rodents and can be in their urine or droppings. It is a respiratory illness that can be fatal. Q fever is a disease common in cattle, sheep, and goats. In 2011, a multistate outbreak was attributed to people that had been around baby goats! Montana had 9 cases and Washington had 11.

Giardia can be passed from infected animals to humans, often by their stool, which can then enter water sources.

The good news is that common infection control measures around animals can help to keep us safe and able to enjoy our furry friends. These include:
• Hand hygiene after ALL contact with animals and their environment.
• Don’t bring livestock into living areas!
• Avoid touching your mouth after animal contact.
• Don’t eat or drink around animals.
• Appropriate use of personal protective equipment–gloves when cleaning animal stool, masks for use around rodents nests or droppings.
• Be sure of your water sources; if in doubt,use a filter!
• Avoid kissing animals or allowing them to lick your face.

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