Ownership of Cats or Dogs

Does Not Increase Risk of Exposure to Rickettsia typhi 

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Abstract of Journal Article -- June 2002

By Robert J. Wiggers, PhD, and Robert S. Stewart, PhD                        

In the United States, murine typhus ( Rickettsia typhi ) is endemic in southern California and South Texas. Evidence indicates the natural host/vector system is the opossum and cat flea, the most common flea on both cats and dogs, and speculation suggests that pet contact may pose a risk for R typhi exposure. Serum from 140 subjects was tested for rickettsial antibodies by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay that used an R typhi antigen. Each subject was asked about pet contact status and placed in one of the following groups: owners, non-owners but with regular contact (more than 3 times per week), non-owners with irregular contact (fewer than 3 times per week), or non-owners with no contact. Overall, 15.7% of sera were positive for antirickettsia IgG. Of owners or those with regular contact, 14 of 96 (14.6%) were seropositive, while 8 of 44 (18.2%) of non-owners or those with irregular contact were seropositive. A chi-square test showed no significant difference among these groups ( P >.5). We conclude that pet ownership or regular contact with pets is not a risk factor for exposure to Rickettsia typhi .

June 2002 Texas Medicine Contents
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