As a veterinarian in general practice, I frequently counsel pet owners on preventing GI parasitism in their pets, especially since some of these parasites can also infect people. But do family clinicians and pediatricians make a point to discuss zoonoses with their patients?—Tracy Revoir, DVM, Lenexa, Kan.
Although no strict guidelines exist, it is recommended that generalists screen patients for pets when developing a differential diagnosis, particularly in immunocompromised patients, e.g., children and those who are immunosuppressed, elderly, pregnant, or HIV-positive. That said, the risk of transmission of enteric disease from animals to immunocompetent humans is low and can be prevented by simple hygienic measures. A 1999 survey of veterinarians and physicians in Wisconsin found that vets are more likely to encounter zoonotic diseases and more comfortable discussing and educating patients about health measures than the generalists and infectious disease specialists surveyed (Emerg Infect Dis. 1999;5:159-163). Further, clinicians thought veterinarians are best equipped to control disease pathogens in animals and to provide information for patients and clinicians, even if they aren’t aware of the pet owner’s immune status.—Laura G. Kehoe, MD (131-9)