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 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) and USDA along with other agencies and experts and is tapping into the broad expertise of our member veterinarians to develop information for our members and the public. We will strive to ensure that veterinarians have a prominent voice as these issues are discussed and decided in the United States.
Ebola virus in animals
At this time, the CDC states that there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread the virus to people or animals. Even in areas of Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with the virus.
The chances of a dog being exposed to Ebola virus in the U.S. are very low. Exposure requires close contact with bodily fluids of a person with symptoms of Ebola infection. This is why it is important for individuals symptomatic with the disease to avoid contact with animals and others to the extent possible. We do not yet know whether or not a pet’s body or fur can transmit Ebola to people or other animals.
Ebola virus in people
Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with:
- Blood or body fluids (e.g., urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with the virus
- Objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
- Infected fruit bats or nonhuman primates
Ebola is not spread through air, water, or food, with the exception of handling or consuming infected bushmeat (food derived from wild animals, such as fruit bats and nonhuman primates). There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects transmit Ebola virus, and only a few species of mammals (e.g. humans, nonhuman primates, and fruit bats) are noted to be susceptible and capable of spreading the virus.
Symptoms of Ebola in people may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days (average 8 to 10 days) after exposure and include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising).