Public Health Notes Animals in Schools _ Rehab Facilites

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					    Public Health Notes

                               Animals in Schools
                           and Rehabilitation Facilities
                                                                                     by C. Patrick Ryan, D V M , M P H, ABVP
                                                                                        Veterinary Public Health, Disease Control Programs
                                                                                        Los Angeles County Department of Health Services

    I   n the United States there are an esti-
        mated 110 million pets, more than one
    for each family. Periodically, calls are re-
                                                     care and feeding of classroom animals.
                                                         The educational and psychosocial ben-
                                                     efits of having animals in the classroom
                                                                                                        Controlling Zoonoses
                                                                                                            The risk of zoonoses can be reduced by
                                                                                                        proper hygiene and prevention of improper
    ceived from the public and schools regard-       exceed the relatively minimal risks. Most          exposure to animals. The best protection
    ing the risk of animals in schools and reha-     interactions between people and animals are        from zoonoses is to provide healthy animals
    bilitation facilities. Studies have documented   pleasant, however, some interactions have          free of parasites and to ensure good hand
    that pets can improve medical illness, both      undesirable outcomes. Undesirable out-             washing after handling animals. The failure
                                                     comes can be greatly reduced by the appli-         to wash hands before eating puts children at
                                                     cation of common sense and a basic under-          risk for developing zoonotic infections trans-
                                                     standing of animal and human behavior.             mitted by the fecal-oral route (example:
                                                         In rehabilitation facilities, pets have been   larval     migrans,        SalmoneIla     and
                                                     used for psychological and organic diseases.        Campylobacter). Younger children with
                                                     Pets can be valuable to people with hyper-         more finger-to-mouth activity are at great-
                                                     tensive cardiovascular disease, as the simple      est risk of fecal-oral transmission. Meat and
    people in schools and other facilities regard-                                                      poultry products should be clean and cooked
    ing these questions. With this knowledge,                                                           well.
    each facility can make an informed decision                                                             Salmonella is the pathogen most likely to
    regarding the use of animals.                                                                       be recovered from all animal species, both
        There are about 200 zoonoses with            tives. Pets provide companionship and al-          domestic and wild. The disease is transmit-
    people generally serving as accidental hosts.    low people to be alone without being lonely.       ted to people by the fecal-oral route. It is
    Pets most likely to transmit zoonoses in-                                                           most often spread to people from contami-
    clude birds, reptiles and rodents while the      Types of Animals                                   nated and poorly cooked food. In the main-
    cat and dog are the most likely to inflect           In Dallas Public Schools, the largest          land United States, iguana lizards and turtles
    serious bites. Dogs are responsible for over     non-mammalian group of animals are fish.           are major sources of salmonella for children.
    80% of the animal bites in the United States     The most common mammals are gerbils,               In Hawaii, gecko lizards are a major source
    with cats in second place. Cat bites are more    hamsters, rabbits, rats and mice. Labora-          of salmonella. For this reason most schools
    likely to cause infection because they pro-      tory-bred and raised animals are much safer        and rehabilitation facilities do not have rep-
    duce puncture wounds that bury organisms         than wildlife with unknown medical histo-          tiles.
    deep into tissue, while dog bites cause tear-    ries. Gerbils are clean, relatively odorless,          Fish-tank granuloma due to Mycobacte-
    ing injuries that can be opened and irri-        nocturnal animals and rarely bite. Hamsters        rium marinum is seen as chronic ulcerated
    gated.                                           are more likely to bite particularly when          skin sores at sites of minor trauma following
                                                     startled. Mice bite more commonly than             cleaning of fish tanks or following cuts from
    Reasons for Animals                              rats. Rats, compared to mice, are easier to        fish spines. The risk is highest in immuno-
        According to the National Science Teach-     handle and train. Rabbits are docile, but          suppressed children. These children should
    ers Association, the instructional reasons for   occasionally an aggressive rabbit will be          not be allowed to clean the fish tank or
    animals in the classrooms are: to stimulate      encountered that will bite and scratch. Ro-        handle fish.
    interest in the study of animal behavior; to     dents are often kept in wire containers or             A common fungal zoonosis of children is
    develop skills of observation and compari-       aquariums. Some of the small pets are kept         ringworm. About 25% of human ringworm
    son; to develop an appreciation for interre-     in clear plastic containers with intercon-         is attributed to animals and effective man-
    lationship and complexity of life; to give       necting modules. Commercial pelleted di-           agement often must include the treatment
    students a unique perspective of the life        ets designed for the species provides ad-          of the pet to prevent reinfection. The most
    processes through experimentation and to         equate nutrition providing the food is fresh       common cause of hypereosinophilia in
    develop a sense of stewardship and respon-       and stored properly. Guinea pigs need ad-          people in the United States is toxocariasis or
    sibility. Students often participate in the      equate levels of vitamin C.
                                                                                                                               continued on page 16

6   / PULSE /      S outhern California Veterinary Medical Association / September 1998
continued from page 6

visceral larva migrans. The risk in people can      Wild caught carnivores should not be          2. Beynon PH, Cooper JE: Manual of
be reduced by screening cats and dogs for        used due to the risk of rabies and other            Exotic Pets. Iowa State University Press.
Toxocara, worming when indicated and             zoonoses. In Los Angeles County, rabid              Ames. 1991
handwashing after contact with animals. In       bats are detected yearly. Adults and children
                                                                                                  3. Kizer KW: Animal bites. Infectious
the United States the most common cause          should not have contact with bats.
                                                                                                     Diseases 2nd edition (Gorback SL,
of chronic lymphadenopathy and adenitis in
                                                                                                     Gartlett G J, Blacklow NReditors). WB
children is cat-scratch disease caused by        Cat or Dog is Pet of Choice for
                                                                                                     Saunders. pp 1545.1997
Bartonella henselae. Typically this involves     Immune Compromised
contact with kittens.                               A recent article stated that cats and dogs      Langley JM, Marrie T J, et. : Poker Play-
    Most livestock practitioners, particularly   are the safest pets for immune compromised         ers’ Pneumonia. An urban outbreak of
those dealing with sheep, are familiar with      children. Cats and dogs are preferred be-          Q fever following exposure to a partu-
Q-fever, a rickettsial infection with Coxiella   cause ofvarious vaccines for them and meth-        rient cat. The New England Journal of
burnetii where it causes abortion. The or-       ods for testing or infectious agents are more      Medicine.319:354- 57. 1988
ganism localizes in the uterus and mammary       advanced. Cats and dogs older than one
                                                                                                    Stone DR., Marcus LC: Approach to
glands with most animals being asymptom-         year are less likely to carry disease. Routine
                                                                                                    the patient with zoonotic infection.
atic. However, infected people generally         veterinary care reduces the changes these
                                                                                                    Infectious Diseases 2nd edition
become ill with a variety of syndromes. In       animals will have zoonoses.
                                                                                                    (Gorback SL, Gartlett GJ, Blacklow
the urban setting, the disease pattern of Q-
                                                                                                    NR editors). WB Saunders. pp 1541-
fever changes with the cat the most likely       References
source of human infection. Urban dwellers
                                                   1. Adams RM: Animals in schools: A
infected with Q-fever have often been ex-                                                         6. Steele R: Sizing up the risks of pet-
                                                      zoonosis threat? Pediatric Infectious
posed to parturient cats. Perhaps cats pick it                                                       transmitted diseases. Contemporary
                                                      Disease Journal. 17(2):174-176.1998
up from preying on rodents and birds.                                                                Pediatrics. 14( 1):43-65. 1997