You might want to think twice the next time you sneeze in the general direction of your beloved pet* — according to researchers, people underestimate their ability to pass on illnesses like seasonal flu to their furry friends. Instead of blithely breathing into Rover or Fluffy’s face, researchers say you should be as mindful of passing on bugs to your pets as you are with your friends, family and co-workers.
According to ConsumerAffairs.com, researchers at Oregon State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine found that around 30% of cats examined in Ohio were diagnosed with seasonal flu and 20% had more serious strains of H1N1. This whole phenomenon is known as “reverse zoonosis,” since you’re the one passing the illness on to your pet instead of catching something from an animal.
The study’s lead author says most of the 80-100 million cat and dog owners in the country don’t even realize the danger they’re posing to their pets.
“We worry a lot about zoonoses, the transmission of diseases from animal to people,” she said in a statement. “But most people don’t realize that humans can also pass diseases to animals, and this raises questions and concerns about mutations, new viral forms and evolving diseases that may potentially be zoonotic. And of course there is concern about the health of the animals.”
A virus that goes from species to species could eventually mutate and become much worse for both humans and their four-legged friends. The researchers did note that cats are more likely to be part of the reverse zoonosis effect than dogs.
To prevent infecting your pet, do what you would do for a human: Avoiding direct contact, washing your hands when feeding your pet and keeping an eye on your furry pal while you’re ill to see if it’s coming down with something as well.
*I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for sneezing on my cat earlier this very day. I didn’t know it could hurt you, Tyke.
Study: You Could Be Giving Your Cat the Flu This Season [Consumer Affairs]