It seems that every day we’re hearing another news story about the spread of Ebola, either in West Africa or now here in the United States. Ebola, for anyone who may not know, is short for Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever. It’s a deadly viral infection that has killed over 3,300 people and infected over 7,000.
Symptoms of Ebola, according to the CDC, include fever greater than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and unexplained bleeding or bruising. These symptoms appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
It’s not yet known how how Ebola originally started, but researchers believe humans first became infected through contact with an infected animal, possibly a fruit bat, and that the disease spread through West Africa through the bush meat trade. When a human is infected with the virus, though, it can be spread to other humans in several ways:
- through blood or body fluids (urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen)
- objects (like needles and syringes) that are contaminated with the virus
- infected animals
- according to the CDC, it is NOT spread through the air or by water. However, in Africa, it may be spread as a result of handling bush meat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats…
As Ebola becomes a larger concern around the world, those of us who share our hearts and homes with cats and dogs may wonder if our beloved pets are at risk of contracting the virus. And furthermore, are we at risk of infection from our pets?
If your concern involves your feline friends, rest assured that we found no evidence of any cats ever being infected with Ebola. (On the contrary, we never found any evidence that they can’t be infected, either.)
However, if you’re wondering if your dogs can be infected with Ebola, the short answer is yes. But – there is a much longer explanation needed:
During the 2001-2002 Ebola outbreak in Gabon, the CDC conducted a study and published an article entitled,“Ebola Virus Antibody Prevalence in Dogs and Human Risk”. They observed that several dogs were highly exposed to Ebola virus by eating infected dead animals. To examine whether the dogs became infected with Ebola virus, they samples 439 dogs from epidemic areas in Africa and a control area in France and screened them for the virus. Not surprisingly, many of the dogs from the virus-epidemic area screened positive for Ebola.
What’s surprising about dogs, though, is that they do not appear to be affected by the Ebola virus. Dogs do not get sick or die from Ebola infections.
We also wondered, can humans contract Ebola from dogs? From the CDC study, it appears that they can:
Although dogs can be asymptomatically infected, they may excrete infectious viral particles in urine, feces, and saliva for a short period before virus clearance, as observed experimentally in other animals. Given the frequency of contact between humans and domestic dogs, canine Ebola infection must be considered as a potential risk factor for human infection and virus spread. Human infection could occur through licking, biting, or grooming. Asymptomatically infected dogs could be a potential source of human Ebola outbreaks and of virus spread during human outbreaks, which could explain some epidemiologically unrelated human cases. Dogs might also be a source of human Ebola outbreaks.
The good news is that once the virus is cleared from the dog it is no longer contagious to humans.
So, to answer the question, “Can my dog get Ebola?” Yes, the possibility exists. But, outside of virus-epidemic, underdeveloped areas, with much lower standards for food production and sanitation, the chances are extremely low.
As the Ebola virus continues to spread close to home, all pet parents should be aware of this potentially dangerous threat. Please share on Facebook and Twitter.