PET owners in the Australian capital, Canberra, are being urged to stop breeding exotic pets, saying the disease is growing exponentially and it is costing them money.
Pet owners have been advised to take precautions to prevent their pets being infected with a rare and deadly disease called kuru, which is currently only known to affect humans.
The virus has killed more than 4,000 people worldwide, and was first discovered in the wild in the United States in 2010.
“I don’t think I’m one of the lucky ones,” Mr Thomas said.
Mr Thomas has two black and white Siberian Huskies and a silver and gold Labrador Retriever, both of which are his favourite animals.
He said he was worried about the risk to his health after contracting the disease.
‘It is like a death sentence’ Mr Thomas was diagnosed with the disease in 2010, when he was just 21 years old.
When he was diagnosed, Mr Thomas had been working as a taxi driver in Sydney, and he was living in a three-bedroom apartment in a quiet suburb.
His health worsened after contracting kuru.
The disease is a rare, viral infection that can only be transmitted via close contact with a wild animal, but has already been linked to deaths in humans, with more than 1,000 cases in the past three years.
After contracting kurus, Mr Tomas and his wife of 25 years decided to stop working, and instead moved to the suburbs of Melbourne to live with his brother, a carpenter.
While living in the suburb, Mr Thomases noticed that his dogs were becoming less aggressive, and the family began to question whether their pets were actually healthy.
Kuru causes severe damage to the respiratory tract, leading to pneumonia and pneumonia complications.
In an attempt to find answers, Mr Tomases contacted a veterinarian in the city and was diagnosed in November 2010 with kuru in his lungs.
Since then, Mr Thomas has suffered from a number of respiratory issues including asthma, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, severe headaches, severe fatigue, severe skin irritation and swelling, dizziness, weight loss and fatigue, and a rare form of a skin condition called sepsis.
Although the disease can be controlled with antibiotics, it has now been linked with an increased risk of lung cancer.
However, the couple are determined to continue breeding exotic animals, and say the strain of the disease has become more widespread and deadly over the past few years.
“I think there is a reason why it has become so deadly,” Mr Tomas said.
“I can’t see a scenario in which this will ever end.”
Mr Tomas says his dogs are still happy to play with his brothers dogs, who he said were not sick.
Dr James Hughes, the chief veterinary officer at the Western Australian Veterinary Hospital, said the condition had increased significantly in recent years, and that he could see the risk of developing the disease becoming a problem in his patients.
“[The disease] is the most common and most common cause of death in humans and has the most severe and serious side effects,” Dr Hughes said.
“It is a really serious disease.
It is extremely difficult to treat, but it can be prevented.”
The more animals that are exposed to it, the more risk there is of developing kuru and then having to deal with it in the future.
“People with kurus are going to get the disease because of the proximity of the pet, and so you end up in a situation where they have to be at the hospital longer than other people.”
The Western Australian Government is currently working with local animal welfare organisations to develop strategies to tackle the growing risk of kuru infection.
There are no restrictions on importing exotic pets into Australia, but they must be kept in quarantine, and must not be left unattended.
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