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Human Pregnancy/Immune Deficiency And Guinea Pigs

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Wiebke

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We get the occasional enquiry by pregnant women whether there is a risk of catching anything from guinea pigs during their pregnancy. In short, it is highly unlikely and and any small risk can be easily avoided with some simple common sense measures.

These rules also go for when you are undergoing cancer treatment, have a severe illness or suffer from a suppressed/impaired immune system.
If guinea pigs are cuddled by older people (which can be beneficial), make sure that they wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.

Transmission of rodent specific infections from guinea pigs to pregnant women are thankfully EXTREMELY RARE.
Infections from guinea pigs are in fact so rare that in over 10 years of existence and with thousands of members passing through our forum, including a fair number of guinea pig keeping pregnant women, we have NEVER come across a case in connection with guinea pigs, nor have we ever been contacted by anybody with a specific experience, nor have we heard of any actual case, present or past through the grapevine - and believe me, if that was the case, it would make the rounds like wildfire!


This guide is here to show you how can safely eliminate any risk factors and continue to enjoy our guinea pigs.
These simple common sense measures are recommended in order to avoid direct contact with and breathing in urine and excrements of any rodents (pet or wild ones).

Personal contact hygiene
- Please always thoroughly wash your hands after handling guinea pigs! This should be a firm habit for anybody handling any pet anyway.
- Do not kiss your guinea pigs or hold them close to your face without a mask.
- Cover any sores and skin lesions with water resistent plastic plaster before handling (if necessary, use disposable gloves as well) and remove afterwards when your wash your hands.
- Thoroughly wash and disinfect any accidental scratches you have received while handling your guinea pigs.
- Do not smoke while with guinea pigs (not something you should do around guinea pigs anyway!)
- Do not spend lots of time in the guinea pig room and rather socialise with your guinea pigs elsewhere.

Cleaning advice
If at all possible, please ask a family member to clean out and poo patrol the guinea pigs during pregnancy! That is by far the most effective measure you can take to minimise any risk of infection.

- Please clean cages out in the open and not in the house if at all possible. Do not clean out cages in the kitchen and do not use the kitchen sink (food contamination risk). If you use the bathroom sink, bathtub or shower, you need to thoroughly disinfect afterwards.
- Clean out your guinea pigs regularly to prevent a build-up of excrement.
- Wash any fabrics (including your own clothing) that has come into direct contact with rodent urine while handling or cleaning at a high temperature (at least 60 C / 140 F). We recommend to use some dedicated old t-shirts or pullovers and a lap blanket that can be washed regularly at a high temperature and disposed of when no longer needed.

If you have nobody to clean your guinea pigs out for you
- Use a face mask and disposible gloves if you have to clean out your cage to prevent breathing in any urine or excrement during the cage clean.
- Put any disposable bedding in a plastic bin bag and wash your hands repeatedly, as soon as you take off your gloves and whenever you handle thing that contain/have come in contact with bedding dust/particles. The more often, the better!
- Always disinfect the cage and guinea pig furnishings after each clean.
- Do not hoover or sweep up any piggy droppings; particles can be spread into the air.
If your cage is on carpet, then line the floor around the cage with some plastic liner, which can be wiped down with a damp rag and then be disinfected like any other hard surface.
- If necessary keep your piggies on puppy pads that you can easily dispose off daily or every second day without the need to poo patrol or shaking out before washing.
- Spray any bedding with water and disinfectant and let soak for a few minutes to minimise the risk of particles becoming airborne.

Where to best keep guinea pigs during a pregnancy
- Please do not keep guinea pigs where you prepare or consume food (i.e. kitchen and/or the room you eat in whether that is the dining room or the lounge).
- Don't keep guinea pigs in your bedroom.
- Ideal is a spare bedroom, your hall, an indoors utility room or a dedicated insulated shed that is not accessible to mice or rats.
At all times make sure that your guinea pigs are still safely away from the extremes of weather and hot sunshine through an unprotected window. At the same time, ensure that the room is well ventilated.
- Keep away from wild rodents (mice, rats); this is much easier done with indoors guinea pigs than hutch guinea pigs, which are at a higher risk of infection from wild rodents, too.

Babies and small children
- At all times only closely supervised contact - that is a general must when it comes to small children and guinea pigs. Young children should not be able to access the cage on their own.
- Make sure that babies and small children do not put guinea pigs or anything in direct contact with them in or near the mouth (including their hands that have just touched a guinea pig or a cavy toy!)
- Thorough handwashing after direct or indirect contact - like helping you with cage cleaning - is an essential habit for everybody of any age! Teach with your example and make sure that your children do it poperly.

How can infections be transmitted?
- by rodent bites and scratches
- by direct contact with urine, excrement or dander (including via bedding)
- by breathing in tiny bits of urine, excrement or dander (including via their bedding)

What are the initial symptoms I need to be aware of?
- mild flu-like symptoms or fever and headaches are usually the first sign. They are often vague and can be mistaken for something else.
It is very important that you mention to medical personnel that you have been in direct contact with rodents when you report your symptoms.

What infections can be spread by guinea pigs that affect the frail, elderly or very young as well as pregnant women?
Please note that there is a small risk that these viruses can have been contracted before your guinea pigs have come to you. Rodents will not show any symptoms but can be lifelong carriers.
- Hantavirus (species specific) via inhalation. Symptoms: fever, headache, gastrointestinal symptoms and kidney problems in progressive order.
- Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV) via broken skin/bite or mouth/nose/eyes. Symptoms: none or mild flu; but it can cause meningitis.
The main transmitter are wild mice, but pet rodents like hamsters can become infected by them if they come into close contact.

The full list of illnesses and their symptoms that can be transmitted by rodents (not just guinea pigs) can be found in this link. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploa..._risk_of_human_infection_from_pet_rodents.pdf

Before you start hyperventilating and think of dumping your guinea pigs on a rescue or on the free-ads, please take a DEEP BREATH! We STILL don't know of a pregnant woman or small child who has contracted a rodent virus from their guinea pigs.

With the common sense tips from this guide, you or your child won't be at risk while you can still enjoy your guinea pigs!
 
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