Wash your hands to keep you and your pets healthy during flu season
“Ooooo! Doggie germs!” All of us have heard this from folks who may not appreciate little smooches from our pets. As a therapy dog handler, I carry hand sanitizer in my pocket to give to everyone who pets Wheatie during his visits to remove “doggie germs.”
As a therapy dog handler, I’m also aware that my dog can pick up germs from sick people. People with contagious infections, like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus infections (or MRSA) or Clostridium difficile, can spread these germs to both the humans and pets who visit them, so special precautions are needed to reduce risks that therapy dog might pick up germs from people.
Now that we’re thinking about cooler weather and flu season, it’s important to remember to avoid spreading our germs or picking up germs from others. One of the most effective methods for reducing infection spread is hand washing. Simply washing with soap and water is one of the best methods to keeping germs from traveling between people.
Hand washing is also important to avoid spreading germs from you to your pets. A new report from researchers at Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine cautions pet owners to avoid spreading flu bugs to their pets. They report several cases of pet cats and dogs picking up flu germs from their owners and then becoming sick with respiratory illnesses. They advise pet owners to take sick pets to the veterinarian if they develop respiratory symptoms, especially if there are humans in the house who are sick with flu symptoms. So when you’re coughing or sneezing and then go to pet your furry friend, remember he may be thinking, “Ooooo! People germs!”
Whether it’s pets or humans, the best way to fight the flu and other infections is to prevent them. And the best way to prevent infections is hand washing. Microbiologists at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill tested 14 hand washing products. They tested regular non-antimicrobial soap, special anti-bacterial soaps, hand wipes, and hand rubs or hand sanitizers you use without rinsing with water. All products were used for just 10 seconds. In their study, nothing worked better than regular soap and water. Remember — soap alone won’t kill germs. Soap lifts germs off of your skin so they can be rinsed away with water –- which is why you need BOTH soap and water. If you’re using hand sanitizer, the World Health Organization recommends rubbing both surfaces of your hands and between the fingers for 20-30 seconds.