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Reverse zoonosis causes concern
Humans must beware of passing flu on to their pets

The concept of reverse zoonosis, in which humans can pass illness on to their pets, is causing concern with the approach of the influenza (flu) season.

Many people do not realise they can not only pass flu on to other humans when they get sick, but also animals, including dogs, cats and ferrets.

Scientists and vets hope to help prevent reverse zoonosis by raising awareness of the issue.

It is well known that animals such as pigs and birds introduce new strains of flu to humans, such as the most recent H1N1 flu strain, however, it is less known that humans have further passed these on to other animals.

There is currently little known about reverse zoonosis by scientists and vets, however researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) and Iowa State University are looking at this type of disease transmission.

"We worry a lot about zoonosis, the transmission of diseases from animals to people," said Christine Loehr, an associate professor at the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. "Any time you have infection of a virus into a new species, it's a concern, a black box of uncertainty.

"We don't know for sure what the implications might be, but we do think this deserves more attention."

Professor Loehr advises that people with flu-like symptoms distance themselves from their pets in future.

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Less than a month to sign hedgehog petition

News Story 1
 Over 43,000 people have signed an online petition to make hedgehogs a protected species. Oliver Colvile MP, who launched the petition, has also received more than 3,000 paper signatures. But the petition closes in less than a month and it needs 100,000 signatures to be debated in parliament.

Hedgehog numbers have fallen by a third in urban areas and 50 per cent in rural areas since 2000. Mr Colvile said: "Their numbers are in serious decline and it is our responsibility and duty to help reverse that in any way we can." To sign the petition, visit: petition.parliament.uk/petitions/121264  

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MS sufferer researches impact of assistance dogs

A Multiple Sclerosis sufferer has begun the UK's first known research into the impact of assistance dogs on the lives of people living with the disease.

Working with four UK assistance dog charities, Grainne O' Connor is currently interviewing the charities' clients about their experiences of having an assistance dog.

Grainne hopes her research will help inform national government social policy - with assistance dogs being recognised as an effective solution to meet some social care needs.