Why Should You Wash Your Hands After Handling Pets?

Zoonotic diseases are high contagious infectious diseases which can be spread directly from animals to humans. Over 60% of known pathogens that affect humans are zoonotic. These can be transferred through direct contact, being bitten or scratched by the animal or via a contaminated food source.

If you haven’t had pets before, washing your hands after interacting with them may well be a good idea! Perhaps you can hear the ringing of your parents voices in your ears, saying ‘don’t forget to wash your hands before you eat!’, this is good advice you should perhaps listen to!

Common Zootonic Diseases

You are likely to already be aware of some of these. Yet, there may be some which are less familiar and with as there are around 150 zoonotic diseases in total, this is just scratching the surface!

  • Scabies – a skin diseases caused by mites
  • Salmonella – bacterial infection causing food poisoning
  • Roundworms – a parasite found in the intestines
  • Strep throat – a sore throat caused by streptococcal infection
  • Giardia – an intestinal infection caused by a parasite
  • Ringworm – a skin disease caused by a fungus

When to Wash your Hands

  • Contact with an animal
  • Contact with animal feed
  • Contact with animal equipment
  • Contact with animal cages
  • Contact with animal waste

Prevention

If you’re asking yourself why is it important to wash your hands, you may be familiar with the fraise  ‘prevention is better than cure’. This is very apt and demonstrates that adopting preventative measures is a better alternative.

One of these preventative measures would be washing your hands after handling pets and animals.

It is also important to be aware of the high-risk areas for the potential for contracting zoonotic disease. These include – zoos, farms, pet shops, wildlife sanctuaries and rescue centres, vets, kennels and stables. If you are concerned that sufficient sanitation facilities will be available, you could always carry a small travel size hand sanitiser gel.

In your own home with your pets, you should wash your hands after playing, stroking or handing them, coming into contact with faeces or litter trays or cleaning equipment such as toys and cages.

You can of course wear gloves when undertaking cleaning duties which can be beneficial.

Other things to consider include:

  • Routine vet checks to ensure your pet is in good health
  • Providing a designated area for feeding away from your own eating and food preparation area
  • Ensuring litter trays are in an area away from food or food preparation
  • Cleaning animal cages outside with cleaning equipment used for that sole purpose
  • Ensuring animal waste in the garden is removed and disposed of in a bin away from your usual waste
  • Use a hose to rinse areas in the garden contaminated with animal urine or faeces
  • Storing animal feed in a secure container away from food preparation areas

The Right Way

Is there a correct way to wash your hands?

There are many ways to wash your hands. However, the most effective way and to ensure you are getting rid of as many germs as possible, you should follow these steps:

  1. Wet hands with clean running water
  2. Apply suitable soap (anti-bacterial)
  3. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap
  4. Scrub palms, backs of hands, between fingers and under nails for at least 20 seconds
  5. Rinse hands with clean running water
  6. Dry hands with a clean towel

When there is no washing facilities, the best alternative is to use a 60% alcohol and above hand sanitiser. They are not as effective as they don’t get rid of all germs. However, it can be useful when in remote areas and there are travel sizes available for ease of use.

How to Use Hand Sanitizers

  1. Apply a small amount to palm of one hand
  2. Rub hands together
  3. Rub gel over all parts of the hand including between the fingers
  4. Do this until your hands are dry

Education

In order to keep your children safe and protected, it’s advisable to encourage them to understand why washing their hands after contact with animals is important. By providing a reason behind requests, it can help them gain understanding and improve the likelihood of them doing so.

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