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Parasitic worms may cause serious symptoms such as a skin rash, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss, but they may also cause no noticeable symptoms at all, depending on the species. Nonetheless, nobody wants a parasitic worm infection. You can most effectively prevent ending up with a tapeworm infection by keeping your pets free of fleas, as tapeworm larvae are found inside infected fleas. Hookworm, however, can be shed through infected pet feces, and the same goes for roundworm. A dual approach of keeping your pets dewormed and ensuring that you wear gloves and wash your hands after handling pet feces keeps your risk to a minimum.
Should you own reptiles and amphibians like turtles, lizards, snakes, or frogs, there is a chance that your pet carries the infamous bacterium salmonella, which leads to food poisoning. The CDC estimates that around 70,000 people get a salmonella infection from contact with reptiles in the United States each year.
While no cases of rabies have been reported in my native Holland for many years, the disease still kills around 59,000 people worldwide each year. Only one human with rabies ever made it out alive, and that was due to a combination of sheer luck and revolutionary medical experimentation. All others have died horrible, painful deaths. If you are a responsible pet owner you do, of course, get your pet vaccinated against rabies every year. But did you know you should still take your pet to the vet if you suspect they have been bitten by a rabid animal? Well, you do now. If you think you or someone in your household has been exposed to rabies, you need to get medical attention right away: rabies prophylactics will keep you safe.
Bartonellosis, more commonly known as cat-scratch disease, is a bacterial infection caused by Bartonella henselae. Transmitted through flea feces and more common in kittens than adult cats, humans can get cat-scratch disease if they are scratched or licked by an infected cat. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, headaches, and fever. Most people will recover without any problems, but some will need antibiotics and a smaller percentage will need to be hospitalized. Around 25,000 people a year need to stay in hospital for a while to recover from cat-scratch disease in the US.
People with compromised immune systems should, unfortunately, avoid playing with kittens.