By Pierre B. Bland, DVM
I am regularly asked questions regarding pet health and care. Recently, many of the questions have been about what roles dogs and cats play in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and their possible role in the spread of Ebola in the U.S. should an outbreak occur. This article is based on the latest recommendations form the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
How are animals involved in Ebola outbreaks?
Ebola is a zoonotic disease, because it can be passed between certain animals and people. Ebola may have originally spread to humans from contact with infected fruit bats, apes or monkeys, but is now spread from person to person through direct contact. Although studies show that some dogs in Africa have been exposed to the Ebola virus, there is no evidence that they become ill or spread the disease to people or other animals in the current West African outbreak.
Here in the US, are our dogs and cats at risk of becoming sick with Ebola?
The risk of an Ebola outbreak affecting multiple people in the U.S. is very low. This makes the risk to pets also very low, as they would have to come in contact with blood and body fluids of a person with Ebola. There is limited evidence that dogs become infected with the Ebola virus, but there is no evidence they develop the disease.
Can I get Ebola from my dog or cat?
At this time, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or being able to spread Ebola to people or animals.
Can my pet’s body, fur, or paws spread Ebola to a person?
It is not yet known whether 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 the blood and body fluids of a person with symptoms of Ebola infection.
What if there is a pet in the home of an Ebola patient?
The CDC recommends that public health officials in collaboration with a veterinarian evaluate the pet’s risk of exposure to the virus. Based on this evaluation, as well as the specific situation, local and state human and animal health officials will determine how the pet should be handled.
Can bats spread Ebola?
In Africa, fruit bats are considered to be the natural reservoir for Ebola. The CDC considers the risk of an Ebola out break from bats in the U.S. very low since North American bats are not know to carry Ebola. Bats in the US can carry rabies and should be avoided as a general rule.
Just as your risk of becoming infected with Ebola is very low, your pet’s risk of becoming infected with Ebola is extremely low. This finding is significant, especially when compared to the risk of your pet contracting preventable but deadly diseases like parvo, distemper, and rabies. If your pet is ill – regardless of the cause- or if you have questions about your pet’s health, contact your veterinarian.
Dr. Pierre Bland is the owner of “Dr. Bland’s Vet House Calls” a veterinary house call service. He can be contacted at 954 673-8579 or at doctorblandvet.com