I love you, Charlie, but I can’t kiss you any more.

Charlie may have a zoonotic disease. Anyone who kisses him may get it too. While there are treatments for zoonotic diseases, there are few immunizations.


Zoonotic diseases are diseases that are passed between animals and humans. Many are infestations with parasites, such as hookworms and roundworms. Other examples of animal transmitted infections are ringworm and tuberculosis. Two prominent examples of zoonotic disease are the Influenza epidemic of World War I (Swine flue) and the Plague or Black Death of the Middle Ages (Yersinia pestis) transmitted to humans by rats via fleas.


Of particular importance is toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease transmitted by cats through their feces. Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted to an unborn child through an infected mother. All women who are pregnant, suspect they might be pregnant or are planning a pregnancy should NOT change a cat’s litter box or garden outdoors without wearing gloves. Toxoplasmosis can cause damage to the brain, eyes and other organs of the unborn child.


What is your best protection against zoonotic disease? Good hand washing and other basic hygienic measures and preventative care of all household pets by a veterinarian.


So, think twice before you kiss Charlie’s hairy muzzle. He’d probably prefer a scratch behind the ears any way.


Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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