We’ve always been wary of zoonosis, or the transfer of diseases from animals to humans. But though getting diseases from animals is an understandable concern, it seems we often forget that we also bring diseases to them. Reverse zoonosis is as dangerous as zoonosis, since virus can jump to and mutate in your pet, creating a more resilient and transmittable strain of the illness.

MedicalNewsToday.com reports that veterinary researchers from the Oregon State University and Iowa State University are currently studying cases of reverse zoonosis in order to better understand its risks.

In 2009, a case of reverse zoonosis was reported in Oregon during the outbreak of the H1N1 virus. While a pet owner who has contracted the disease was being treated in a local hospital, her cat died of pneumonia due to an H1N1 infection. More cases have been reported in the following years, and all animals exhibited flu-like symptoms following their owner’s illnesses.

"We worry a lot about zoonoses, the transmission of diseases from animals to people. But most people don't realize that humans can also pass diseases to animals, and this raises questions and concerns about mutations, new viral forms and evolving diseases that may potentially be zoonotic," explains Christiane Loehr, an associate professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine.

Although reverse zoonosis is still being studied, it’s important for us to remember how disease can easily be transmitted not just to our family members, but also to our pets. With smaller bodies and lower immune systems, it’s not hard to think of them as easy targets of dangerous respiratory conditions especially during flu season.

If you believe that you a have a nasty case of the sniffles--or any disease for that matter--consult a doctor as soon as you can. Show consideration to those around you, and for the time being, try to avoid petting the household cat.

(Photo by cobalt123 via Flickr Creative Commons)

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