my child comes home from school with every illness - can he transmit anything to my pets?

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Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Aug 21 2015
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It’s the time of year for packing lunches, shoving kids on the bus and no longer having to hear how bored they are for the millionth time. Hooray! But (isn’t there always a but?), it’s also the time when their immune systems are bombarded with all kinds of new germs, courtesy of their new classmates.

It seems like we’re all sick in the first few months of school – at any given time, at least two members of my household are carrying around balled up tissues. Clients also lament to me about this phenomenon, so I know we’re not alone. The most common question I get around this time of year is: “My kids sure get me sick all the time – can they pass this stuff on to our four-legged family members?”

Rest easy, readers. Your pet is probably the only one in the house who WON’T catch what comes in from the bus every day. You see I said probably, right?

In the veterinary and public health world, we very often worry about pets spreading disease to humans. This is called zoonosis, and our pets can, in fact, transmit disease to us. We hardly ever stop to think about the opposite. Reverse zoonosis is when we humans share our illnesses with our pets (or other animals). It’s really quite rare, considering how common zoonosis is throughout the world, but it can happen.

Before you quarantine your kids from the pets, or vice versa, take solace in the fact that your average, every day, run of the mill cold (or flu or pink eye) won’t affect your pet in the slightest, although she may enjoy a little extra snuggle time on the couch with you or your kids. We have, however, seen transmission between humans and pets of more serious things like MRSA, E. coli and even H1N1 strains of influenza, but if your kid is picking those things up at school, you’ve got bigger problems than the potential for it to spread to Fluffy!

So, send those little cherubs off to school, welcome them home with a box of tissues and relax – your furry housemates can still act as nurse maids when you’re all laid up with the latest round of the flu.