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Jul 20, 2017

Healthy Living: Animals and Your Health

World Zoonosis Day is commemorated on the sixth of July each year. Pet owners and farmers may not often think about the myriad of transferrable diseases between animals to humans; but, there have been major health scares locally and internationally with diseases like rabies, avian flu and even Ebola – all of which have animal origins. This is why globally, the concept of One Health which recognizes that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment has been gaining momentum. Animal owners do have their part to play as well and we find out more in tonight’s Healthy Living.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Whether you’re a pet owner or a farmer, your animal’s health is important to your own health. While zoonotic diseases are not very common in Belize, the transfer of illnesses from animals to humans and vice versa does take place and can put you and your family at risk. Doctor in Veterinary Medicine, Dr Jane Crawford of the Animal Medical Center explains how.

 

Jane Crawford

Dr. Jane Crawford, Veterinary Medicine, Animal Medical Center

“Basically, a zoonotic disease is any disease that can pass from human to animal or vice versa. It could either be parasite, virus, bacteria or fungi. We see – especially here in Belize City – mostly, we see cases of suspected leptospirosis. We see cases of suspected leishmania – locally people call it the bay sore in dogs as well and I’ve handled cases of rabies as well.”

 

Doctor Crawford is nearing twenty years of practicing veterinary medicine in Belize. She explains the common trends that she sees in her practice.

 

Dr. Jane Crawford

“With leptospirosis we tend to see more suspected cases because we can’t confirm but based on clinical signs. During the rainy season, we would see more cases. In Belize City, we have a lot of rodents and they carry the parasite and you would have our pet in the yard. And if you leave the food out in the night, the rats come and mess with that food and then later the dogs comes and eat that same food and if it is infected they can come down with it as well.  Then they can pass it on to the humans as well. Most cases we suspect as leptospirosis, we explain to the owner that if they want to continue with the treatment they have to be very careful in handling and only one person deals with that animal and if you have small children at home then no contact at all and other animals as well. We also have parasites like here the basic hook worm; that pass on to humans as well. If you have a puppy that has hook worm and you have children running around, they can potentially get the hook worms as well. So most time, we see puppies with hook worm, we tell them you need to clean up. Wash the area; make sure the children are not in the yard or if you have an open yard where dogs are coming and going, wear shoes.”

 

Worms, leptospirosis, and rabies can all be prevented by the use of medications and vaccinations. Properly protecting your animal means that you’re protecting yourself and your family as well.

 

Dr. Jane Crawford

“You have to vaccinate and we try to explain to people that vaccination is very important. People once they see a dog foaming at the mouth, they right away feel it is rabies, but that’s not necessarily true. For it to actually be rabies, they have to have a bite from an animal that is infected or a wild animal especially if you live in the countryside or from a vampire bat, which in Belize City we don’t normally in the city see vampire bats. If you have your pet you have your dog or your cat and they are up to date with their vaccinations an annual basis then you should be ok. You shouldn’t have any issue with any of these diseases.”

 

Human population is growing and moving into new geographical areas, this in turn increases our exposure to different animal populations. Added to that is the changing climate and the ease of traveling from one corner of the earth to another. All of these factors, and others, are key reasons why the new global message promotes one health.

 

Dr. Jane Crawford

“Right now, there is a lot of focus on one health, which is human health and animal health. So if you have healthy animal then your human population should be healthy as well. It’s not just your pets because if you have your farm animals that will later be slaughter and it comes into the food chain for the humans. So if you have healthy animals, you will have healthy food so all of that is connected. Not because you have a pet, you don’t have to do anything. You just put him aside, feed him and he would be fine. But then you also have to look at the bigger picture. If we have an animal coming down with anyone of these diseases and you don’t know about it, potentially you can affect someone else. And a lot of these diseases are fatal if they are not treated early enough or recognized early enough.”

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