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How can I avoid catching an infection from an animal?

There are several ways you can reduce your risk of catching an infection from an animal.

Contact with animals

To reduce your risk of infection from an animal:

  • avoid contact with infected animals
  • avoid direct contact with animals' faces  for example, do not kiss your pet
  • avoid direct contact with animals' stools (poo)

If you have a pet, follow your vet's advice about treating it regularly for infections such as worms.

Personal hygiene

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water:

  • before and after preparing or handling any food, including raw meat or fish
  • before eating
  • after close contact with animals, such as pets or farm animals
  • after contact with animal stools

Preparing and handling food

Take care when preparing and handling meat and fish. Make sure you:

  • cook meat or fish thoroughly until it's cooked all the way through and the juices run clear
  • avoid eating raw or undercooked meat and fish
  • store food properly  for example, by keeping your fridge and freezer at the correct temperatures
  • use food by its "use by" date
  • clean your work surfaces and kitchen equipment thoroughly

Read more information on food and home hygiene.


If you’re pregnant, it’s important to know that some infections from animals can damage your unborn baby or make you ill. For more information, see:

Visiting and working on farms

Farm animals carry infections that can be harmful to people, even if the animals look clean and healthy.

If you’re visiting a farm, Public Health England (PHE) advises people:

  • not to eat or drink while touching animals or walking round the farm; this includes not eating sweets, crisps or chewing gum
  • not to use gels or wipes instead of washing hands with soap and water; gels and wipes do not remove E. coli in dirt
  • to remove and clean boots or shoes that might have become soiled, and to clean pushchair wheels; after doing this, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water

For more information, read the PHE guide on avoiding infection on farm visits (PDF, 63.2kb).

People who work with animals, such as agricultural workers, may have an increased risk of infection. Health regulations require employers to assess the risk and prevent or reduce the risk of infection. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides information on common zoonoses in agriculture.

Animal bites

If you get bitten by an animal such as a dog or cat, you should get medical advice, unless the bite is minor. The wound could become infected with bacteria. For more information, see Animal and human bites

Read the answers to more questions about infections.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 18/04/2015

Next review due: 17/04/2017