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YOUR PETS AND YOUR HEALTH

YOUR PETS AND YOUR HEALTH

A pet is a domestic or tamed animal kept for companionship or pleasure.  Examples of pets are: pussy cats, dogs, cuddle puppies, Rabbits, Hamsters, Gerbils, Mice, Rats, Guinea pigs, Chinchillas, Ferrets, Parakeets, birds, among others.

Today, approximately 60% of new human pathogens are acquired from animal sources, and more than 70% of those are based in wildlife.  With humans continuing movement into new wild habitats, they constantly expose themselves to the unique pathogens that exist there.  Just like our Agricultural ancestors interacted and manipulated the land in new ways, we continue to do so today and humanity’s pathogenic web keeps growing.

Since time immemorial, animals especially domesticated ones that get the opportunity to have a prolonged contact with humans have been a major source of human infectious diseases. Certain infections like rabies, colds, flu, small pox, tuberculosis, Ebola, Aids are recognized as zoonoses caused in each case by direct animal-to-human transmission. Others like measles became independently sustained with the human population so that the causative virus has diverged from its animal progenitor.

Prior to the adoption of animal domestication, such viral transfers were probably rare, and death from viral infection may have been much lower in pre-pastoral time.  Experts generally agree that animal husbandry has a hand in introducing new diseases to the human population.  It was not just the increased proximity to animals themselves but the way our farming and herding ancestors manipulated the immediate environment to support their livestock.   Changes in the environment and the introduction of livestock also altered these humans’ indirect interaction with wildlife.

Zoonosis as earlier mentioned describes the process whereby an infectious disease is transmitted between species.  It usually refers specifically to diseases that can travel from non-human animals to humans.  They include all diseases that people can catch from animals such as wildlife, domestic animals, insects, primates, and birds.  Some zoonoses can travel the other way – from humans to other animals; this is sometimes called reverse zoonosis or anthroponosis.

The emerging interdisciplinary field of conservative medicine, which integrates human and veterinary medicine, and environmental sciences, is largely concerned with zoonoses.  Many serious epidemic diseases are zoonoses which originated in animals.  These include rabies, Ebola virus disease and influenza.  In a systematic review of 1,415 pathogens known to infect humans, 61% were zoonotic.  The emergence of a pathogen into a new host species is called disease invasion or disease emergence.

AIDS for instance, is caused by the human immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which originated in non-human primates in sub-saharan Africa and was transferred to humans during the late 19th or early 20th century.  There are HIV 1 and HIV 2.  HIV-1 is more virulent, more easily transmitted and it is the cause of the majority of HIV infections globally.  The Pandemic strain of HIV  1 is closely related to a virus found in the chimpanzees of the subspecies pan troglodytes troglodytes,  which lives in the forests of the Central African nations of Cameroon, Equitorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo (or Congo-Brazzaville), and Central African Republic.  HIV  2 is less transmittable and is largely confined to West Africa, along with its closest relative, a  virus of the sooty Mangabey (cercocebus atys  atys), an old world monkey inhabiting Southern Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Western Ivory Coast.

Indubitably, pets or domestic animals can be a   great source of companionship, have economic importance and can be used for security purposes but there is no telling what prolonged contact with these pets does to the human health since they are carriers of most infectious diseases and can transfer them to individuals who choose for one reason or the other to keep them as pets. So, before you take a decision to keep domestic animals as pet or rear them, you need to take certain precautionary measures for your health sake but it is best if you can do without them because the introduction of livestock animals introduces a new infectious potentials.

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