Guinea Pig Zoonoses

I am often asked by worried mothers the question, ‘Is there anything my children can catch from a guinea pig?.’ In short very little, certainly a lot less than they could pick up from carnivores such dogs or cats. I then go on to recount an anecdote from one of my trips to Great Ormond Street hospital where I have been taking my guinea pigs a once a week basis for the past nine years.

The scenario was one sick child confined to bed after an operation who had three of my guinea pigs snuggled around her. I sat one side of the bed while her mother was on the other.

One of the doctors who was passing by, paused and took in the scene. “I’ve seen it all now’ he remarked, with a grin. “Don’t you ever worry about the children picking up something from them?” enquired the mother. “She’s more likely to pick up something from you me or Mr Gurney here than she is from those little tykes!’ he reassured her.

He obviously knew his business but that is just what I would expect from a doctor who worked in one of the worlds most brilliant children’s hospitals.

In the main, what guinea pigs get in the way of bugs and ooh nasties, are species specific. In other words the bug that likes them are not particularly interested in humans. However there is one that humans can and do pick up and that is fungal.

There are many strains of this and several of them are common to both human and guinea pigs. Children are particularly susceptible to picking them up and I always emphasise this whenever I am asked for advice if a family guinea pig has some kind of skin problem.

The good news, is that it is more of a minor irritation to a human being than a serious health threat. They are easily treated with creams or powders and if they have become systemic with the Griseofulvin.

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