Could our pets be making us sick?

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- More than 50-percent of U.S. households have at least one pet, and they can have a number of health benefits like emotional and social support. But for some of us, contracting an infection from one could be deadly.

Experts say our furry friends can transmit more than 70 human diseases like cat scratch disease. Forty-percent of cats carry the disease at some point, and if you're scratched or bitten by an infected cat, you can suffer fever, joint pain, headache, fatigue and weight loss.

Cats can also spread the disease called toxoplasmosis. This can cause congenital defects, encephalitis (en-sef-uh-light-tis) or meningitis if a pregnant woman is exposed.

Dogs can spread ringworm, hookworms, and although rare, rabies, which, if left untreated is almost always fatal.

And if you're a turtle lover, listen up! Up to 90-percent of reptiles harbor salmonella which can cause vomiting, fever and abdominal pain in humans.

To avoid infection, experts recommend wearing protective gloves when cleaning aquariums, cages, and removing feces. Use proper hand washing after pet contact, and discourage pets from face licking. Experts also advise not to let your pet sleep in the bed with you. Although some pets are more like family, they also walk outside and can bring parasites into the bed. So think twice next time your pet jumps in bed with you.

Other high-risk animals are amphibians, hedgehogs, chinchillas, rodents and young chickens.

If your child is sick or under the age of five, try to keep them away from puppies and kittens younger than six-months-old.

Mature dogs and cats are at the lowest risk of spreading infection.
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