Can Therapy Animals in the Healthcare Setting Infect Humans?

Gonzalo Bearman, MD, MPH, hospital epidemiologist, Virginia Commonwealth University, describes the risks of animal to human infection transmission in healthcare settings.

Gonzalo Bearman, MD, MPH, hospital epidemiologist, Virginia Commonwealth University, describes the risks of animal to human infection transmission in healthcare settings.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“With animal assisted therapies, or animal visits to the hospital, we really try to maximize the benefits versus the risks. The risks of an animal or a pet therapy animal actually transmitting an infection to a human or to a patient is very small. It’s real, but it’s very small.

Fortunately, the number of case reports in the medical literature documenting a transmission from an animal to a human in the hospital setting in the presence of animal assisted or associated therapy is virtually nil— [there are] very few out there.

The risks [of infection transmission] are [either] getting something from direct contact with the animal, [such as from] a scratch, a bite, or coming in contact with the animal’s excrements, such as feces or urine, [the risk of] which would be very small.”