MRSA Can Be Carried by Domestic Household Pets
According to the Centres for Disease Control, approximately one out of a hundred people carry MRSA, it is one of the biggest public health issues we face today. MRSA is a potentially life threatening “superbug” bacterial infection that does not respond to common antibodies. Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections can result in 20,000 deaths each year. The infection can be passed on to household pets, such as a cat or dog. The animals can then pass the infection on to humans, particularly children, the elderly, pregnant mothers and adults with a weakened immune system from conditions such as asthma and diabetes. Companion animals used in nursing homes are at a higher risk of MRSA infection because of the healthcare environment. The American Veterinarian Medical Association has published precautions regarding visits, licking and touching these animals. Sometimes, MRSA can become “colonised”, meaning the animals have the bug in their bodies, but there are no visible signs of illness.
Case Study – Journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases”
A thirty-one-year-old mother was diagnosed with an MRSA infection and was treated. However, within a matter of weeks, she became infected again. Testing completed in her home revealed that her one-year-old daughter was colonised in the throat and nose with MRSA. Their “healthy” dog was also tested and found to be infected with the same MRSA. It is most likely that the mother brought the bug into the household, but their dog served as a reservoir for reinfecting the baby and mother. The household infection was eliminated without an on-going series of reinfections.
The potential for household dogs and cats as a source of MRSA infections in humans is relatively unknown to the general public. Approximately 20% of our household dogs, while apparently healthy, are colonised with a form of staph germs, including MRSA. Cat’s rates are somewhat higher than dogs.
The website; www.vcstar.com gives some “red flag” situations where an MRSA carrier in the household could be a serious threat for;
- Infants and young children. (Exposure to non-treatable bacterial infections amongst the young can create a serious immediate medical condition.)
- Immune compromised individuals/patients. (Pregnant women, diabetics, cancer patients, patients with kidney failure, post-transplant patients.)
- Pre and post-operative patients. (Wounds associated with surgery can be infected by MRSA.)
- The elderly (age >65) and nursing home residents.
“There is no need to panic and test every pet. But the evaluation of household pets should be considered if one of these “red flag” situations exists within your household.” (www.vcstar.com)
Veterinary Diagnostics Institute (VDI) in Simi Valley, a licensed veterinary laboratory provider, offers a sample collection kit to determine if our pets have the MRSA infection or if it is colonised. The kit is called Avail™ MRSA and it can be obtained online at www.vdilab.com or by phoning 805-577-6742. This is how the kit works;
- A swab is used to collect mucosa from the animal’s nose
- The sample is sealed in its own container and mailed to the lab for testing
- The sample is cultured for MRSA and within three days VDI provides a detailed veterinary lab report
www.vcstar.com give the following advice;
“The best prevention is to wash your hands after playing with your dog or cat. Soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds should be sufficient. Alcohol hand disinfectants are a convenient way to do the job. Humans are also susceptible to these animal-borne bacteria when they are scratched or have contact with an animal’s saliva or dander. Care should be taken in handling bedding.” (www.vcstar.com)