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Ebola and Our Pets

The death of an international traveler diagnosed in the U.S. as having the Ebola virus disease (EVD), coupled with the precautionary measure by Spanish health officials to euthanize the dog of an exposed healthcare worker, have raised questions and concerns among veterinarians and the public alike:
- How will the U.S. react if faced with an increased number of EVD patients?
- Is there any chance that what happened in Spain could happen here?
- Is it even possible for dogs or other pets to get EVD or spread it to humans?

We know that you and your clients are looking for answers, and we’re working to get information for you. The AVMA is collaborating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with others agencies and experts and is tapping into the broad expertise of our member veterinarians to develop information for our members and the pet-owning public.

We will strive to ensure that veterinarians have a prominent voice as these issues are discussed and decided in the U.S. This morning, the AVMA convened a call that gathered public health experts, government officials, and researchers to share information on what is currently known and to begin compiling information for the veterinary community and the public. This was just a first step. Working jointly, we hope to develop background information and FAQs to help you and your clients.

Key points:

  • The relative risk of exposure to the Ebola virus in the U.S. is extremely low, as there have been only a small number of isolated human cases and no known animal cases.

  • Although EVD is a zoonotic disease, there has not been evidence of its transmission to humans from dogs. Indeed, it is not even known if dogs are capable of contracting and then transmitting the disease. A study analyzing the 2001-2002 virus outbreak in Gabon found antibodies against the virus in about 25% of dogs in the affected area, but no virus was found in them. Furthermore, none of the animals showed signs or died of the disease during the study period. The study only indicated that the animals had encountered the Ebola virus.

  • The CDC recommends that if a pet is in the home of an EVD patient, veterinarians, in collaboration with public health officials, should evaluate the pet’s risk of exposure (close contact and exposure to blood or body fluids of an EVD patient). Appropriate measures, such as closely monitoring the exposed pet while using necessary precautions, should be taken based on that evaluation.

  • While we know many more questions exist about EVD, the AVMA is committed to providing pertinent information and ensuring that the veterinary profession is a driving force in discussions of how pets will be treated and cared for during an outbreak of this or any other zoonotic disease of public health concern.

Please stay tuned to this blog and to our social media channels, where we will keep you informed as we work with subject matter experts and animal and public health officials.