| Can I get flu from my dog?

Humans and animals have been in contact with each other for years. Not only have people been using animals as livestock and for transport, but also as companions.

Animals play a big part in human lives – it is therefore no surprise that some infectious diseases are able to spread between animals and humans.

These diseases are known as zoonotic diseases. Yearly, thousands of people worldwide are infected by diseases spread by animals.

A study published in the Journal of the South African Veterinary Association mentioned that at least 63.6% of veterinarians taking part in the poll have suffered from a zoonotic disease, with those involved with farm animals even more likely to contract a disease from an animal.

But what about the flu?

But can you contract the flu virus from your cat or dog? Cats and dogs can suffer from colds and flu – just like humans; they experience sneezing, fatigue and a discharge from the nose and eyes.

According to the Berkeley Wellness Center, you cannot get the flu from your dog or cat. Flu is species-specific thanks to evolution, says Dr Shelley Rankin at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

Although it’s unlikely that Fido or Fluffy will you sick, there are however animals that harbour flu strains that can end up making us sick.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) animal influenza is different from the seasonal influenza humans get so often – the viruses manifesting in your pets won’t transfer to humans in an unmutated form. But occasionally, there are strains of animal viruses that can affect humans through direct or indirect contact.

 Flu from pigs

Swine influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease in pigs caused by type A influenza virus, which regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs.

Influenza viruses have the capability to mutate swiftly, creating new flu strains. When influenza viruses from different species infect pigs, the viruses start to swap genes, and new viruses that are a mix of swine, human and/or avian influenza viruses can emerge. Over the years, different variations of swine flu viruses have emerged.

The WHO states that most swine flu strains rarely affect humans, but in the past decade there were some cases where humans were infected with a strain of swine flu.

Flu from birds

Avian influenza or bird flu is spread by birds – mostly poultry species such as ducks, geese and chickens. Bird flu is highly contagious and can cause respiratory problems, resulting in death.

WHO recorded an outbreak of the H5N1 virus in Hong Kong in 1997, and since since 2003 this avian and other influenza viruses have spread from Asia to Europe and Africa. In 2013, human infections with the influenza A(H7N9) virus were also reported in China.

Happy pets

Even though it is extremely unlikely that you will get infected when your dog or cat suffers from a bout of sniffles, you should still take measures to protect yourself from all kinds of germs:

  • Wash your hands after handling your pets and any of their bodily fluids or secretions.
  • Keep their food bowls and sleeping areas clean.
  • Clean cats’ litter boxes regularly and wear plastic gloves when handling stools.
  • Get the yearly flu vaccination to protect you and your family.
  • Keep your immune system strong by eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep.

Image credits: iStock | 3 foods you must eat if you’ve ever smoked

If you want to protect your lungs, quitting smoking is a no-brainer. But what you put on your plate can also help, too: Eating certain kinds of produce can help boost lung health, a new study in the European Respiratory Journal suggests.

Read more: 5 surprising food combinations that could prevent cancer, a heart attack and other health risks

In the study, researchers asked 680 people, including never-smokers, former smokers and current smokers, about their dietary habits, and then performed a spirometry – a test that measures lung function based on inhalation and exhalation – on them. Then they repeated the lung function test 10 years later.

The researchers discovered that the more apples, bananas and tomatoes the former smokers ate, the slower their decline in lung function was over that time period.

That’s important, since ageing and smoking are the biggest established factors responsible for lung function decline, the researchers say.

Read more: Can broccoli and cauliflower really kill cancer?

So why are these foods so important for your lung health? It probably comes down to their antioxidants, the researchers believe.

Take tomatoes: Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, an antioxidant that may help reduce airway inflammation, potentially boosting lung health.

Another group of antioxidants known as flavonoids might also be responsible. These compounds found in high amounts in many fruits and vegetables may also have anti-inflammatory effects, helping you breathe easier. This may help explain why the apples and bananas were linked to less lung decline, too.

Read more: Feed your muscles and your sweet tooth with this banana pumpkin protein shake

The association between lung health preservation and tomato, banana and apple consumption was more evident in former smokers, compared to those who never lit up. This suggests that these antioxidants may possibly contribute to lung restoration, helping mitigate the damage to lung tissue caused by smoking, the researchers say.

Read more: 5 ways to stop smoking – and keep that new year’s resolution

This isn’t the first time that scientists have linked what you put on your plate to your lung health: Last March, researchers discovered that people who ate foods containing the most carotenoids – the plant pigments responsible for the orange, red or yellow hues – were less likely to develop lung cancer.

And the effect was even more pronounced in former smokers, too: Guys who lit up in the past and ate the most lycopene, for instance, slashed their risk of developing lung cancer by 52%, as we reported.

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Image credit: iStock