Ebola and our Pets
Written by: Janice Row
Can dogs get or transmit the Ebola virus?
One can scarcely turn on the news today without hearing the latest frightening statistics about the 2014 African Ebola epidemic. WHO (World Health Organization) predicts that before it is contained, 20,000 people will have been infected and it will cost 600 million dollars to fight this outbreak. To date there is no cure, but there are promising new treatments and vaccines being developed to battle the disease that was first identified in 1976.
What Is Ebola?
According to comprehensive Center for Disease Control (CDC) studies, Ebola is a virus or group of viruses that originated in central Africa, possibly in birds. The main reservoir for the virus now is thought to be African fruit bats.
In people the virus causes headaches, muscle and joint pain, fever, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting and then progresses to kidney failure and the hemorrhagic stage when the victim begins bleeding internally and externally.
Among primates, including humans, the disease is 50 to 90% fatal.
What Creatures Are at Risk For Ebola Infection?
Ebola is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be passed between species. The most adversely affected group is primates, including gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys and humans. Other animals known to have been naturally infected are the African fruit bats, antelope, porcupines, rodents, pigs and dogs. There have been no documented infections in felines at this time.
How Is Ebola Spread?
Ebola is spread in several ways. An important study done by CDC infectious disease experts and veterinarians following the 2001-2002 Ebola outbreak concluded that consumption of infected meat was one avenue. Gorillas and other primates kill and eat infected animals, African hunters trade in "bush meat" and people who consume that can become infected.
An important way Ebola is spread amongst humans is by direct contact with body fluids such as urine, saliva, vomit, feces, semen and blood from infected individuals.
Objects such as needles may also be contaminated with infected fluids.
How Do Dogs Get Ebola?
Dogs and other animals pick up Ebola from consuming infected meat, direct contact with infectious fluids such as urine, feces.
Dogs are kept as pets and for hunting in Africa but are not typically fed, therefore they scavenge and ingest infected meat or residue from infected people. The very detailed CDC study found evidence of infection in dogs by testing hundreds of blood samples for antibodies.
What are Symptoms of Ebola in Dogs?
The CDC concluded that infected dogs are asymptomatic (do not develop symptoms) from Ebola. During the initial time of their infection, however, they can spread the disease to humans and other animals through licking, biting, grooming, saliva, tears, urine, and feces. However, once the virus is cleared from the dog it is no longer contagious. Dogs do not die from Ebola infections.
Can MY Dog Get Ebola?
In the United States and areas of the world not contiguous to the affected countries in central Africa, the chances of contracting Ebola are extremely low.
The virus is spread mainly in the current prevalent areas where the lifestyle is far different from ours. There is no known source of infection outside of affected areas in Africa. In our country, and most countries with more stringent rules concerning food production and sanitation, our pets should be protected as well as we are from this type of catastrophic disease.