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Friday, October 17, 2014

Ebola and Pets

The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in the Congo of Africa. It has caused outbreaks of death and disease in Africans ever since. The most recent outbreak has been particularly horrible, and the illness has crossed the border to threaten other nations, including ours. We know that African Fruit Bats can act as reservoirs and can spread the disease to people, so the question arises: can dogs do the same? One dog has already been euthanized, and another quarantined after being exposed to their infected owners.

A study published in 2005 demonstrated that some dogs exposed to Ebola virus (many through eating carcasses of Ebola-infected animals) developed titers to the disease. None of the dogs showed any clinical signs of illness. So what does that mean? It could mean that some dogs, when heavily-exposed to the virus (as in eating it) may actually become "infected." Can these asymptomatically-"infected" dogs spread the virus to people? We don't know, but at this time there is zero evidence that it has ever happened.

Another question is, could dogs (or other animals, for that matter) spread the virus on their feet or fur from an infected person? The answer to that is also unknown, but it seems likely to me that they could, since the virus is known to survive on inanimate objects for a period of time.

The CDC assures us that Ebola is extremely unlikely to become a widespread threat in the US, and I certainly believe that to be accurate, because we are much more "organized" in the disease-control area than third-world countries. Hopefully, probably, this will prove to be true.