Ebola and the Role of Pets

There are daily updates on the Ebola outbreak that is currently happening.  The stories of human life lost are heartbreaking, and the difficulties in containing the outbreak are immensely frustrating.  As animal lovers, we are also concerned about the animal aspects of this zoonotic disease.  An asymptomatic dog was euthanized in Spain, when his owner (who has recovered) was diagnosed. Many are wondering what this decision was based on.  Apparently dogs do mount antibodies to Ebola, but it is not clear whether dogs actually get sick and if or how they shed the virus.  Is quarantine therefore a more reasonable approach?   If we see a drastic increase in the number of human cases in North America, the logistics of this become daunting.

The CDC has published a fact sheet on pets and the Ebola virus (http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/qas-pets.html).  Some information from this website to keep in mind is:

At this time, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread Ebola to people or animals. The chances of a dog or cat being exposed to Ebola virus in the United States is very low as they would have to come into contact with blood and body fluids of a symptomatic person sick with Ebola…We do not yet know whether or not a pet’s body, paws, or fur can pick up and spread Ebola to people or other animals. It is important to keep people and animals away from blood or body fluids of a person with symptoms of Ebola infection.”

Hopefully careful isolation and treatment, and cautious but rational policies as far as in-contact animals and people will help minimize and resolve this outbreak.

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