Ebola: CDC Issues Pet Guidelines

Can pets pose an Ebola risk? According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Department of Agriculture and the American Veterinary Medical Association the State, the answer is "maybe." Making good on CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD's promise to come up with guidelines for such cases, the CDC did so Oct. 13 in the form of a Q&A posted on its website.

Can pets pose an Ebola risk?

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association AVMA) the answer is “maybe.”

Making good on CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD’s promise to come up with guidelines for treating animals potentially exposed to Ebola, the CDC did so Oct. 13 in the form of a Q&A posted on its website.

The guidance was developed with the USDA and the AVMA But instead of writing a national playbook for handling pets potentially exposed to the virus, the CDC said cases should be referred to state and local officials—both to those who monitor human health and those in charge of animal control.

The CDC stressed that “so far there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread Ebola to people or animals.”

But in a 2005 study in Africa partly funded by the CDC, researchers found the virus in many dogs that lived in regions where there were Ebola outbreaks.

The CDC yesterday acknowledged that there is some evidence that dogs can have the Ebola virus, but said it was not cause for alarm in the US. The African dogs were believed exposed by eating carcasses of other animals or by licking up the blood or vomit of humans who were ill with Ebola.

The canine infections in Africa were confirmed by blood tests since dogs, unlike primates, do not develop Ebola symptoms, even when they are reservoirs of the virus.

Much of the CDC’s Q&A is devoted to addressing pet-owners concerns for their own animals, telling them they did not need to have pets tested and offering reassurances that the likelihood of infection was remote. “The chances of a dog or cat being exposed to Ebola virus in the United States is very low as they would have to come into contact with blood and body fluids of a symptomatic person sick with Ebola.”

Concerns first surfaced with the news that health officials in Spain had euthanized the 12-year-old dog of a nurse there who contracted the virus.

The CDC’s statements should be good news for Bentley, the year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel belonging to Nina Pham (seen in Facebook photo.)

The Dallas nurse cared for deceased patient Thomas Eric Duncan, contracted the Ebola virus, and is now a patient at her hospital Texas Presbyterian Health. Since the dog’s care is up to Dallas officials, Bentley will likely be spared.

In a tweet yesterday a Dallas city spokeswoman said “Bentley is safe with the city of Dallas,” adding that the dog had been taken to a safe place. “He’s adorable. Clearly a little puzzled by what’s going on. But he’s in good hands now and will be taken care of,” she said.