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One health: The need of prevention in role of small companion animals

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One Health is both a concept and an approach. As a concept, it advocates a systemic and ecological practice that incorporates interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaborations. As an approach, it unifies regional and global efforts to address issues that threaten human, animal and environmental health to get the best health results.
In recent years, One Health has focused a lot of attention on pandemic infectious diseases. This is because environmental changes, such as deforestation, climate change, and people moving into wilderness areas, can speed up the spread of diseases from wild animals to domestic animals and then to people. Outbreaks of Ebola virus infection, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and avian (H5N1) and porcine (H1N1) origin have drawn attention to the interaction between wildlife, production animals, and humans and shown the need for combined medical and veterinary approaches to deal with these problems. One Health also directly helps families stay healthy and happy by recognizing the unique role of small companion (pet) animals.
But the question remains should we consider pets when discussing One Health? Dr Rachna Dave, Founder & CEO, MicroGO LLP writes.

From pets to people

In recent years, pets have become an integral part of Indian families1. According to a survey conducted by Rakuten Insight on pets owned in January 2022 in India, dogs were the most popular pets, with a share of 68%. Cats were the second most popular pet, with a share of 34 %.  India’s population of pets is growing at a rate of more than 12% per year. In 2016, the pet population in India was 18 million, which grew to 24 million by 20192. During the pandemic, it grew to 32 million, which is almost a two-fold growth in the last couple of years. One Health’s main concern right now is the current list of zoonotic diseases that can be passed from pets to people in the home, either directly or indirectly, as listed below.

Disease Organism Cat Dog Mode Of Transmission
Arthropod-borne

infections shared by

pets and people

Anaplasma phagocytophilum

Ehrlichia spp.

Leishmania infantum

Rickettsia spp.

Yes Yes Bite from an arthropod that has previously fed on

an infected animal

Enteric diseases Campylobacter spp

Escherichia coli

Salmonella spp

Yes Yes Ingestion after contact with infected faeces
Giardiasis Giardia spp. Yes Yes Ingestion after contact with infected faeces
Influenza Influenza A virus Yes Yes Direct contact with aerosols from infected animals

 

Leptospirosis Leptospira spp. No Yes Direct contact with infected urine
Methicillin-resistant

Staphylococcus aureus

(MRSA)

Staphylococcus spp Yes Yes Direct contact with infected wounds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ocular and visceral larva

migrans

Toxocara spp. Yes Yes Ingestion after contact with infected faeces
Plague  

Yersinia pestis

Yes No Direct contact with secretions or flea transmitted
Rabies Rabies virus Yes Yes Bite (in the United States, most human cases are

from wildlife)

Ringworm Dermatophytes Yes Yes Direct contact with cutaneous lesions
Toxoplasmosis Toxoplasma gondii Yes No Ingestion after contact with infected faeces
Tularemia Francisella tularensis Yes No Direct contact with secretions or arthropod

transmitted

 

Personal hygiene pointers3

●      Wash your hands after touching animals or their surroundings, and supervise kids under 5 get their hands washed.

●      When cleaning up after a pet, wear vinyl or home cleaning gloves or use a plastic bag to keep your skin from coming in direct contact with animal faeces.

●      Avoid contact with animal-derived pet treats

●      Animal bites and scratches should be cleaned right away.

●      Do not let pets lick open wounds, cuts, or medical devices like intravascular catheters.

●      Pets should also not lick the skin of young children or people with weak immune systems.

●      Use gloves to clean tanks, and don’t dump aquarium water in sinks that are used to make food.

●      Make sure that sandboxes on playgrounds are covered when they are not being used.

 

In spite of this, we all have families and friends who love their pets immensely and are devoted pet parents. The ancient Mesopotamians were the first people to discover the psychological benefits of having a pet, which have since been confirmed by decades of research4. This isn’t only about ‘pets as therapy’ in clinical settings like hospitals and nursing homes; it goes much further, discussing the far-reaching psychological and social consequences of pets4. With the help of current tools, doctors and other medical professionals can advise patients on responsible pet ownership and contact in an effort to lower the prevalence of diseases linked to pets. Let’s keep taking preventative measures. Nobody has ever been harmed by prevention, ever!

References:

  1. Statista. (2022, July 13). Pet ownership share in India 2022, by pet type. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1238576/india-share-of-pets-owned/
  2. Akhter, S. (2022, January 10). The new wave of pet parenting is driven by millennials: Aman Tekriwal, Supertails. ETHealthworld.com. https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/the-new-wave-of-pet-parenting-is-driven-by-millennials-aman-tekriwal-supertails/88763937
  3. Stull, J. W., Brophy, J., & Weese, J. S. (2015). Reducing the risk of pet-associated zoonotic infections. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 187(10), 736–743. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.141020
  4. Day, M. J. (2011). One health: the importance of companion animal vector-borne diseases. Parasites & Vectors, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1756-3305-4-49

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