There is limited evidence on the association between animal ownership and respiratory illness among young children in low- and middle-income countries. In this study, we examined the association between animal ownership and respiratory illness among children younger than 5 years of age enrolled in a prospective cohort study in urban Bangladesh. This prospective cohort study enrolled 884 participants younger than 5 years of age in Dhaka, Bangladesh. At baseline, trained research assistants administered caregivers of children younger than 5 years of age a questionnaire on household animal ownership. Animal ownership was defined as owning chickens, birds other than chickens, cats, and dogs. Respiratory surveillance was conducted monthly for children based on caregiver-reported coughing, rapid breathing, and difficult breathing in the past 2 weeks during the 12-month study period. At baseline, 48% of children (424 of 884) had reports of coughing, 5% (40 of 884) had difficulty breathing, 3% (25 of 884) had rapid breathing, and 49% (431 of 884) had reports of any of these three respiratory symptoms. Seventeen percent of children (151 of 884) resided in a household that owned an animal. Children residing in households reporting bird ownership had a significantly greater odds of coughing (odds ratio, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.02–1.28) and any of the three respiratory symptoms in the past 2 weeks (odds ratio, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.02–1.28). Household bird ownership was associated with respiratory illness in young children. These findings suggest that interventions aiming at reducing young children’s exposure to domestic animals should extend to include birds other than chickens.
Address correspondence to Christine Marie George, Department of International Health, Program in Global Disease Epidemiology and Control, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe St., Rm. E5535, Baltimore, MD 21205-2103. E-mail: email@example.com