Ebola and Pets — Important Facts You Need to Know
Can Ebola spread from people to animals or animals to people? Doctors from BluePearl Veterinary Partners have offered some important information about pets and Ebola.
"When it comes to Ebola and how this infectious disease interacts with our pets, there really isn't a ton of information available," said Dr. Jennifer Welser, chief medical officer of BluePearl Veterinary Partners. "However, we've done our best to put together a list of the important things we do currently know."
Here's a look:
- Diseases that can pass between humans and animals are referred to as zoonotic diseases. This is important because 62 percent of American households have at least one pet according to a 2012 Humane Society survey. Because of this, veterinarians play a vital role in recognizing and preventing the spread of disease.
- Ebola is zoonotic, but the extent to which it actually affects animals is not well known. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, scientists believe that the first patient became infected through contact with an infected animal, such as a fruit bat or primate (apes and monkeys), which is called a spillover event. Person-to-person transmission follows and can lead to large numbers of affected persons. In the current West African epidemic, animals have not been found to be a factor in ongoing Ebola transmission.
- As for dogs and cats becoming infected with Ebola, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola, even though they may develop antibodies from exposure to the disease. Certainly a greater understanding of the effects of Ebola on dogs and cats is needed.
- According to the CDC, the risk of an Ebola outbreak affecting multiple people in the United States is very low. Therefore, the risk to pets is also very low. Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola.
- Beyond the more common household pets, some people do keep monkeys as pets. According to the CDC, monkeys are at risk for Ebola. Symptoms of Ebola infection in monkeys include fever, decreased appetite and sudden death. Monkeys should not be allowed to have contact with anyone who may have Ebola. Healthy monkeys already living in the United States and without exposure to a person infected with Ebola are not at risk for spreading Ebola.
- If there is a pet in the home of an Ebola patient, the CDC recommends that veterinarians, in collaboration with public health officials, evaluate the pet’s risk of exposure. Appropriate measures, such as closely monitoring the exposed pet while taking necessary precautions, should be put in place.
Scientists and veterinarians with the American Veterinary Medical Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the CDC and many other partners are continuing to work together to develop additional guidance for the U.S. pet population.
"Besides being doctors to animals, veterinarians play a key role in public health and disease prevention," Welser said. "Veterinarians throughout the U.S. and around the world work together with human health officials to keep the public safe."
Officials in Spain recently euthanized a dog for being exposed to Ebola. The dog of a Texas nurse who became infected with Ebola is currently in quarantine.