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Cats and Ebola

Can cats catch or pass Ebola?

With the Ebola virus now on American soil, pet owners may be prompted to wonder: can pets contract Ebola? Can they transmit it to people? In Spain, a dog belonging to an Ebola-infected health worker was summarily euthanized even though it was free of symptoms, creating a worldwide outcry. Is there reason to worry about pets spreading this dreaded disease?

Can My Pet Catch Ebola?

First, it's important to know how Ebola virus is spread. Transmission requires direct contact with the body fluids (such as vomit, diarrhea or blood) of a person who is actively sick with the disease. The virus is not spread through the air or water, it is not spread by mosquitoes or other insects, and it can only survive for a few hours outside of the body. Unless your pet has been in close contact with someone who is sick with Ebola, a healthcare worker who treats Ebola patients, or someone who has traveled to West Africa, the chance of your pet catching Ebola is essentially nil.

Does Ebola Make Dogs and Cats Sick?

Humans and non-human primates are capable of contracting Ebola virus, and it rapidly makes then sick and is often fatal. African fruit bats are an important reservoir for the infection because they can harbor the virus for years without getting sick. Various types of animals have been experimentally infected with Ebola and developed few or no symptoms. Cats may be naturally immune. A single study tested exposure in dogs to Ebola during a 2001-2002 outbreak in Gabon. Over 30% of these dogs were found to have antibodies to Ebola virus, indicating exposure. No active virus was found in their blood, suggesting that they had survived being infected.

Can Pets Spread Ebola?

The jury is still out on this. The Gabon study did not detect active virus in the dogs, even in those that were heavily exposed. In the current West African Epidemic, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or being involved with transmission of the disease.

What Happens to a Pet in the Home of an Ebola Patient?

In the case of a Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola, her dog was isolated and quarantined for observation out of an abundance of caution. The CDC recommends that pets with known exposure to a human Ebola patient be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by local and state public health officials in collaboration with a veterinarian.

We clearly still have a lot to learn as this devastating epidemic unfolds. The American Veterinary Medical Association is cooperating with the CDC to monitor Ebola in the United States as it impacts animals. For the latest information, visit the CDC webpage.

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