In recent years, the drug-resistant bacteria methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which used to be found exclusively in humans, has turned up in pets, Humans can acquire MRSA (often pronounced "mersa") during a hospital stay, then pass it on to their pets, where it can live for several months before being passed back to humans that have close contact with the pets. Dogs and cats both appear to be potential carriers of the bacteria, which can cause severe skin infections, pneumonia and even death in both humans and pets. For protection, always wash your hands after handling a pet, and don't let a pet lick your face. Take your pet to the vet if he/she has any sign of a skin infection.

Other diseases that you can get from your pets…


  • Roundworms. Toxocariasis is an infection acquired from the roundworm parasite that lives in the feces of infected dogs. Roundworm eggs find their way into the soil and can be ingested after gardening in infected soil or petting a dog that has been rolling around on the ground. Once ingested, the eggs develop into worms that migrate around the human body. Roundworm infections are more common in arid areas, where the eggs can survive in soil for years.

Human symptoms: Mild infections may not cause symptoms. More serious infections may cause abdominal pain, cough, fever, itchy skin and shortness of breath.

Human treatment: Antiparasitic drugs.

Dog symptoms: Diarrhea, weight loss.

Dog treatment: Deworming medication.

Prevention: Wash hands thoroughly after working in the garden or petting your dog

  • Hookworms are in the feces of infected dogs. Hookworm larva can penetrate the skin and develop into worms that tunnel under the skin, creating itchy red tracks.

Human symptoms: Itching, rash, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite.

Human treatment: Antiparasitic drugs.

Dog symptoms: Diarrhea, weight loss.

Dog treatment: Deworming medication.

Prevention: Avoid bare-skin contact with soil or beaches where dogs may have defecated.

  • Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that affects the urinary tracts of dogs and other animals that acquire the infection through their noses or mouths after spending time in habitats shared by raccoons and other wildlife. Humans acquire it when an open sore or mucous membrane comes in contact with the bacteria.

Human symptoms: Some infected people have no symptoms. Others have high fever, severe headache, chills, vomiting and sometimes jaundice.

Human treatment: Antibiotics.

Dog symptoms: Lethargy, loss of appetite, jaundice.

Dog treatment: Fluids and antibiotics.

Prevention: Wear gloves when working around soil or a habitat shared with raccoons. Avoid swimming or wading in water that might be contaminated with animal urine.


  • Ringworm is not a worm but a fungal infection named for the circular rash it causes on humans. Ringworm is transmitted via direct contact with an infected animal's skin or fur.

Human symptoms: Ring-shaped rash that is reddish and often itchy.

Human treatment: Antifungal ointment.

Cat symptoms: Fur thinning and loss.

Cat treatment: Antifungal ointment.

Prevention: Keep your cat inside to minimize the risk for skin parasites.

  • Toxoplasmosis. Some cats shed a potentially infectious organism in their feces that can be particularly dangerous if ingested by pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems. Cats typically become infected when they eat infected prey, such as mice or birds. Humans can accidentally ingest the parasites after cleaning out a litter box.

Human symptoms: Most people never develop symptoms. Those who do may have headache, fever, fatigue, body aches.

Human treatment: Certain medications can reduce the severity.

Cat symptoms: Often no signs.

Cat treatment: Antibiotics.

Prevention: Pregnant women should avoid cleaning litter boxes. Keep your cat indoors.

  • Cat scratch fever. This is a bacterial disease caused by Bartonella benselae. The organism usually is carried by fleas that live on the cat.

Human symptoms: Swollen lymph nodes, fever and malaise.

Human treatment: Antibiotics.

Cat symptoms: Most cats don't show any signs of illness.

Cat treatment: Flea medication.

Prevention: Promptly wash and disinfect any cat scratches.


  • Psittacosis. Some birds carry bacteria that cause a bacterial respiratory infection in humans, acquired when they inhale dried secretions from infected birds.

Human symptoms: Fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and dry cough.

Human treatment: Antibiotics.

Bird symptoms: Typically no symptoms, though some birds show signs of respiratory illness, such as lethargy and discharge from eyes and nasal airways.

Bird treatment: Antibiotics.

Prevention: Use extreme care in handling any pet bird showing signs of respiratory illness.

Family Dinners—More than just a Meal

Teens who have dinner with their families at least five times a week are less likely to abuse alcohol and/or drugs than teens who have dinner with their families three or fewer times a week. Teens who are less involved with their families are twice as likely to use tobacco or marijuana...more than one-and-a-half times more likely to use alcohol...and twice as likely to try drugs.

How to Keep Your Teen Driver Safe

Teens with their own cars are more likely to get into accidents than teens who share a car with a family member.

Recent finding: 25% of teens who had their own vehicles had been involved in crashes, compared with only 11% of those who shared a car. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for US teens, resulting in more than 5,000 deaths each year.

Best: Discuss driving privileges with your teen. Set clear rules, and monitor teens' whereabouts. Teens who said their parents did this in a supportive, noncontrolling way were half as likely to crash, compared with teens who said their parents were uninvolved.

Is TV Keeping You Awake?

When researchers analyzed lifestyle surveys completed by 21,475 Americans, they found that television viewing was the most common activity in the two hours before bedtime.

Concern: Watching television before bed time often causes people to stay up later-potentially reducing sleep time, which raises risk for obesity and other health problems.

Self-defense: Limit your TV viewing time to allow for seven to eight hours of sleep nightly.

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