Ebola and Pets, Are They At Risk, Are We?

Teresa Romero Ramos, a nurse in Spain, was infected with the Ebola virus after caring for a patient who later died of the virus. Her dog, Excalibur, was euthanized by the Spanish government as a “precaution” against the spread of the disease despite worldwide objection and requests for the dog to have a quarantine period the same as humans are given. Though no instances of dogs developing or spreading the disease have been found, one major study indicates that dogs may become infected with the virus but remain asymptomatic.

In Dallas Texas Nina Pham’s dog Bentley fared better with a 21-day waiting period as veterinary teams worked with the City of Dallas Animal Services to test the dog, finding him negative, and watching for any symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) claims dogs may become infected but can’t develop the virus, and there is no evidence the virus affects cats in any way.

Photo: CDC / Cynthia Goldsmith
Photo: CDC / Cynthia Goldsmith

With the outbreak and ensuing epidemic of the ebola virus in West Africa and to date three infected persons in the United States pet owners wonder if we need to worry about our animal companions from little pocket pets to horses to exotic pets. The host animal for the virus hasn’t yet been discovered, so caution is wise until it’s found. African fruit bats can become infected and it’s known that primates can be infected, develop and die of the virus, and in prior outbreaks that was presumed to be the instigation, whether from encountering infected apes or monkeys or eating them as is customary in the bush.

Where our pets are concerned the same precautions should be taken for them as for humans. The virus is spread by contact with body fluids and all people and animals, aside from those trained and prepared to handle and treat the infected person, should stay clear of contacting the person in any way until they have been cleared for contact.

Travelers to and from restricted countries are to be monitored, health care workers know the risks and would need to be personally careful around their pets. For the rest of us, unlikely to encounter the virus, we don’t seem to have much to worry about.

Below is a press release and statement with many links for information from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) CEO Dr. Ron DeHaven.

. . . . . . .

Ebola and pets: What are the risks?

AVMA CEO: “It’s time to be cautious, but no time for panic”

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Oct. 17, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Can pets get sick from Ebola? Can they pass the virus to us? What should happen to the pets of infected people?

These questions came to the forefront this week when concerns were raised about what to do with the dog of an Ebola-infected nurse in Texas. While the dog has shown no signs of being infected, it is currently in quarantine as officials monitor its health. Earlier in the month, officials in Spain opted to euthanize a dog that may have been exposed to Ebola from an infected owner.

Dr. Ron DeHaven, CEO of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), said his organization is working with a number of veterinary and public health agencies and experts to develop protocols that veterinarians and other health officials can use to help guide their decisions on the handling and care of pets that may have been exposed to Ebola.

“There are lots of factors to consider, such as the type of animal and level of exposure,” DeHaven said. “We want to make sure we create comprehensive, flexible protocols so veterinarians and health officials in all types of situations can use them to make the best decisions based on the evidence.”

DeHaven said that there have been no reports of dogs or cats getting sick from Ebola, or of pets passing the virus to people or other animals, “but we are still taking precautions just in case.”
He added, “It’s time to be cautious, but no time for panic.”

The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since that time, there have been sporadic outbreaks in Central Africa. Earlier this year, however, saw the start of the largest recorded outbreak of Ebola, this time in Western Africa. So far, three people have been diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

Ebola is known to infect humans and non-human primates. Fruit bats, which don’t appear to be made ill from Ebola, may be a reservoir for the virus, passing it on directly or indirectly to humans and primates. While fruit bats in Africa can play a part in the spread of Ebola, there is no evidence that bats in North America can harbor the virus, nor is there any reason to believe they have been exposed to Ebola. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says such a situation is unlikely.

Symptoms of Ebola infection can occur anywhere from two to 21 days after infection and can include fever, headache, vomiting, and muscle pain. Ebola is a deadly disease, so if you believe you, someone you know, or your pet has been exposed to the Ebola virus, contact a physician or veterinarian immediately.

You can listen to the latest update on Ebola and pets on the AVMA’s website [http://www.avmamedia.org/display.asp?sid=562&tid=207&NAME=Ebola_and_pets_update:_October_17,_2014]. You can find more information on Ebola at avma.org/Ebola.

The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. More than 85,000 member veterinarians worldwide are engaged in a wide variety of professional activities. Visit www.avma.org for more information.

Audio – http://origin-qps.onstreammedia.com/origin/multivu_archive/ENR/152819-American-Veterinary-Medical-Association-Ebola-and-pets.mp3

SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association
Web Site: http://www.avma.org

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