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Pets provide many benefits to humans. They comfort us and they give us companionship. However, some animals can also pass diseases to people. These diseases are called zoonoses.
Although animals can carry germs, it is important to know that you are more likely to get some of these germs from contaminated food or water than from your pet or another animal you encounter. CDC has created this Web site to provide you with information about the health-related risks of owning and caring for animals.
We encourage you to follow the links located throughout this Web site for general information about companion and wild animals and the diseases they can carry.
Many groups encourage people to enjoy the benefits of common household pets. By following CDC's simple tips on the Healthy Pets, Healthy People Web site, you can enjoy your pets while protecting yourself against diseases they carry.
Because wild animals can carry diseases that are dangerous to people, CDC discourages direct contact with wildlife. You should never adopt wild animals as pets or bring them home. Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if the animals appears to be friendly.
Some people are more likely than others to get diseases from animals. A person's age and health status may affect their immune system, increasing his or her chances of getting diseases from animals. However, immunocompromised persons and parents of young children generally do not need to give up common household pets. Certain precautions are recommended to decrease the risk of disease transmission.
Infants and children less than 5 years old are more likely than most people to get diseases from animals. This is because young children often touch surfaces that may be contaminated with animal feces (stool), and young children like to put their hands in their mouths. Young children are less likely than others to wash their hands well. Objects such as pacifiers may fall to dirty surfaces and then be placed in an infant's mouth. For some animal diseases, young children are more likely than others to get very sick.
Tips to protect infants and young children from getting sick while handling animals:
- Children younger than 5 years old should be supervised while interacting
- Children should not be allowed to kiss pets or to put their hands
or other objects into their mouths after handling animals.
- Childrens' hands should be washed thoroughly with running water
and soap after contact with animals.
- Hand washing prior to breast feeding or preparation of formula is strongly recommended.
Although this section focuses on how to protect children from diseases from animals, many groups support the health benefits of animals for people, including children.
CDC recommends that infants and children under 5 years old avoid contact with the following animals: Reptiles (lizards, snakes, and turtles), Amphibians (frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders), Baby chicks, Ducklings, Petting zoos
Additionally, children less than 5-years old should be extra cautious when visiting farms and having direct contact with farm animals, including animals at petting zoos and fairs.