If you have been anywhere near a newspaper, television news broadcast or computer screen in the last month then you heard about the death of Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan who contracted Ebola. He was the first Ebola patient diagnosed with the disease in the United States. Duncan was treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and during that time two nurses who provided care also contracted the disease responsible for over 4,000 deaths during the current outbreak in western African nations.
You may not have heard, however, that healthcare workers in European nations are also dealing with exposure to Ebola. In fact, a Spanish nurse was hospitalized with the disease earlier this month and government officials there elected to euthanize her dog as a precautionary measure. On the flip side of the coin, however, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel that belongs to one of the sick Dallas nurses has been placed in quarantine with no plans to euthanize the animal. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that no evidence exists to prove that pets can spread the Ebola virus to people or other pets, and no reports of dogs or cats falling ill with Ebola have been filed.
While Ebola continues to dominate the national conversation it is inevitable that pet owners will have questions and look to their veterinarians for answers. And that is the best place to turn – your veterinarian. The worldwide web is a valuable source of information but oftentimes there is no way to verify the accuracy of information on a website or what the source of that information is. That’s why your veterinarian should always be your most trusted source if your pet becomes ill.
In the meantime there are some proven facts about Ebola and pets that you can find online. We turned to our friends at the American Veterinary Medical Association to help compile some important facts for you:
- In the United States the relative risk of exposure to Ebola is low. As of today there are only three documented cases of Ebola patients in the country. Duncan contracted the disease while traveling in Liberia (he since passed away) and the other two were nurses who provided care for Duncan. There are no documented cases of pets contracting the disease.
- Ebola is spread only through the transmission of bodily fluid. It is not an airborne disease like the flu.
- Currently there are no approved vaccines or drugs available to treat Ebola. According to the CDC Ebola patients are treated according to their symptoms as they appear.
- Ebola is a zoonotic disease. There is, however, no evidence that it has ever been transmitted from a human to a dog. The AVMA references a study conducted during the Ebola outbreak in Gabon from 2001-2002 that found no infected dogs in the area, and reported no signs of symptoms or deaths among Gabon’s dogs during the outbreak.
- Two organizations, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association and the CDC, do not recommend euthanization for dogs that could have been exposed to Ebola. The WSAVA says that the animals should be quarantined, while the CDC maintains that the animal’s risk of exposure needs to be evaluated and an appropriate course of action planned out based on that evaluation.
- No evidence has been found by animal health professionals that domestic animals play an active role in transmitting Ebola to humans.
The AVMA website has a wealth of information regarding Ebola, pets and humans. You can visit it yourself to conduct more research but don’t forget that your family veterinarian is your best source of information. And, as always, we are here for you 24-7 in case of an emergency.