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Can you catch herpes from your pets?

Worried about sharing a kiss or cuddle with your pet?

Can you catch herpes from your pets [Pexels]

With so many snuggles and licks, can our beloved pets unknowingly pass this common virus to us? The answer to that might not be what you expect.

This article aims to demystify the complexities surrounding herpes viruses, differentiating between the types found in humans and those in animals, and examining the potential for cross-species transmission.

Herpes viruses comprise a large family of viruses that can cause various diseases in animals, including humans. In humans, the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) types 1 and 2 are the most commonly recognised forms, responsible for causing oral and genital herpes, respectively. These viruses are highly adapted to human hosts and do not naturally occur in animals.

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Conversely, animals have their own herpes viruses, which are typically species-specific. For example, feline herpes virus (FHV) affects cats, causing feline viral rhinotracheitis, while canine herpes virus (CHV) affects dogs, leading to a range of symptoms from mild respiratory issues to more severe conditions in newborn puppies.

The specific herpes viruses that affect humans (HSV-1 and HSV-2) are not naturally transmitted to pets. These viruses are highly specialised to infect human cells, meaning the chances of them infecting pets are extremely low. There have been no documented cases of pets contracting HSV-1 or HSV-2 from their human owners.

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Similarly, the herpes viruses that affect animals are generally not a risk to humans. These viruses are adapted to their specific animal hosts and do not easily cross over to humans. For instance, FHV and CHV cannot infect human cells and thus cannot cause herpes in humans. The biological barriers between species, including differences in cell receptors and immune responses, make cross-species transmission of these viruses highly unlikely.

Despite the low risk of transmission between pets and humans, certain precautions should be taken to maintain health and prevent the spread of other zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans).

Regular veterinary care for pets, good hygiene practices, and avoiding close contact with pets when they are ill are essential measures. It's also important to address misconceptions that may arise from a lack of understanding about how viruses work.

The term "herpes" can invoke unnecessary fear due to its association with human herpesviruses. Recognising that animal herpes viruses are different entities altogether will prevent unwarranted concerns about pet-to-human transmission.

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This content was created with the help of an AI model and verified by the writer.

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