By Lynn Buzhardt, DVM
The world is focused on Ebola, the people infected, and the medical personnel caring for patients. Since the isolation of the sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel belonging to Nina Pham, a nurse infected by Ebola in Dallas, people have extended their circle of concern to include their pets.
Here are a few facts about Ebola that will provide a reasonable approach to the disease and its risk to dogs and their owners.
Who can catch Ebola?
- Non-human primates, like monkeys and apes.
- Fruit bats. Bats are a natural reservoir for the virus in Africa and shed the virus in the feces (since bats carry other diseases including Rabies, contact with live or dead bats is discouraged no matter where you live).
- Pigs have been infected with Ebola for research studies, but there are no recorded cases of humans contracting the disease from pigs.
- In the United States, there have been no recorded cases of Ebola in pigs, bats, or non-human primates outside a laboratory setting.
How is Ebola transmitted?
- The virus is very contagious, but it can only spread through direct contact with body fluids and blood.
- The virus is not spread through the air, water, or food.
- There have only been a handful of cases in Europe and North America combined.
What precautions are needed to prevent the spread of Ebola?
- Ebola virus does not survive very long in the environment and is killed by disinfectants.
- Surfaces contaminated with blood or body fluids should be cleansed thoroughly with agents known to kill the virus.
- People caring for Ebola-infected patients should use extreme caution and wear protective clothing specified by the CDC.
- Frequent hand-washing and good hygiene go a long way to helping prevent viral infections.
What about dogs?
- There have been no recorded cases of Ebola in domestic dogs in the United States.
- There is no evidence that humans can catch Ebola from dogs.
- It is possible that the virus could be carried on their coats, much like on clothing, a contaminated hospital counter, or a doorknob.
- If your dog has come in close contact with an Ebola patient and is at risk of exposure to the person’s blood or body fluids, consult a veterinarian. The veterinarian will work with public health officials to determine what to do.
Ebola is a scary disease and people should pay attention to the ongoing dilemma; however, a reasonable approach is best. Caution tempered with common sense and good hygiene are effective tools to prevent spread of the virus. And it’s nice to know that during this scary time, dog owners can enjoy the comfort of their pets without worrying about their risk of infection.