In the US West Nile Virus has been identified in over 200 species of birds. Avian influenza tends to favor wild water fowl, dogs, cats, skunks, raccoons, bats, and some other animals can transmit rabies. Though rats are the most frequent carrier, domestic cats are also highly susceptible to plague (Yersinia pestis). In 2005, four pet cats in California were found to have plague. As such, we are reminded that disease vectors are not limited to feral animals.
This year (2006) a healthy 4-year old toy poodle was found to be the carrier of a new epidemic strain of CDAD (Clostridium difficile associated disease). This strain has been implicated in outbreaks of CDAD in hospitals in North America and Europe. It is spreading internationally at an alarming rate, and infecting people who are without the usual risk factors for C difficile. The strain, found in the dog, is classified as ribotype 027, toxinotype III, and possesses genes encoding toxins A, B, and CDT (binary toxin) as well as a deletion in the tcdC gene, which is believed to increase virulence. Infection control investigators became suspicious when outbreaks at several hospitals and nursing homes coincided with the pet's visit.
Such situations highlight the importance of protecting one's clothing (Clostridium difficile can cling to clothes) when handling visiting animals. Careful hand-washing after handling animals is important. Consideration should be given to visiting animals and pets when investigating sources of facility outbreaks.
There are no specific rules or regulations regarding surveillance of infection in facility pets or animal visitors. It is, however, prudent that all pet owners be able to name their animal's veterinarian, attest to the health and immunization status of their animals, and if asked, have the ability to produce documents attesting to this.
Pets, like their human owners, should be protected from common vectors, such as mosquitoes and fleas, and discouraged from approaching sick feral animals. Notify your local public health or animal health agency to remove sick or dead birds and other animals.