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Animals

Insects, pets, farm animals and wildlife can carry diseases that affect humans. Protect yourself and your family from the most common risks from animals.

We don't usually get sick from contact with animals. Even insect and tick bites usually cause only minor discomfort.

However, sometimes animals carry diseases that are harmful to humans. Diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile virus are spread through insect bites. Diseases spread by wildlife or pets include rabies and toxoplasmosis.

Some basic precautions can help keep you and your family healthy:

  • use an appropriate insect repellant to guard against insect and tick bites in adults and older children (many insect repellants are not recommended for babies or young children; make sure you check the label)
  • for additional tick precautions, cover your skin when you are in a wooded or grassy area, check your pets for ticks when they've been outside, and know how to detect and remove ticks
  • if you have a pet dog, cat or ferret, be sure to have them vaccinated against rabies
  • avoid contact with cat litter if you are pregnant to reduce your risk of toxoplasmosis
  • consider a rabies vaccination for yourself if you have a job or hobby that requires ongoing contact with animals

Resources

There are additional recommendations and resources for specific ages or stages of life.

Toxoplasmosis is a common infection found in birds, animals, and people. In most people, it does not cause serious health problems. But if you are exposed during pregnancy, it can cause brain damage and vision loss in your baby. The chance of getting the infection and passing it on to your baby is low. However, it's important to avoid anything that may be infected, such as infected meat or cat feces.


It's important that you receive the appropriate diagnostic tests or treatment if you're concerned about exposure. Talk to your doctor or midwife.


If you are planning to use an insect repellant when you are pregnant or nursing, check the recommendations or restrictions for use. If in doubt, talk with your doctor. Many insect repellants are not recommended for babies or young children.


Resources

 

Take precautions when your child is around animals. Most bites occur in school-age children. Supervise young children and teach them to be careful and respectful with animals. Wash hands thoroughly after contact with animals at a petting zoo.


When you are protecting your child against insects and ticks, note that some insect repellants have special instructions or restrictions for children under 12. Be sure to check the label. The BC Centre for Disease Control also has some information that will help your children understand the simple precautions that will help them protect themselves from ticks.


Resources

 


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