Ebola: Could You Get it from Fido?


Ebola: Could You Get it from Fido?

Despite the fact that as an Austinite I’m a few short hours away from Dallas, TX, I’ve managed to remain pretty calm and optimistic about the whole Ebola thing. The virus seems to have been contained in Nigeria and Senegal, and if those two countries can do it, then the US can do it, wherever it crops up.

But then I woke up at 6am this morning thinking, “What if there was an Ebola outbreak in Juarez, Mexico?” And what if people start fleeing in my direction? Okay, that’s not productive. I shook it off and got back to sleep. All was fine until a little while ago, when I was lurking the same surivalistboards.com Ebola thread that the rest of the country, including the media, seems to be lurking as well, and I came across this post about Ebola and man’s best friend.

The post excerpts a study from the CDC’s website [PDF] called “Ebola Virus Antibody Prevalence in Dogs and Human Risk,” the point of which is that there is some evidence that dogs can contract Ebola and spread it while remaining completely asymptomatic.

“This study suggests that dogs can be infected by Ebola virus and that the putative infection is asymptomatic.”

“Some human cases in the recent outbreak in the Gabon/Republic of Congo region did not have a documented source of exposure to Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Similarly, 14 (4.9%) of the 284 cases in the 1976 Sudan outbreak (6) and 55 (17.4%) of the 316 cases during the 1995 outbreak in Kikwit (7), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, former Zaire), had no direct physical contact with an infected person or known infected carcass. These observations point to other routes of transmission (e.g., human-human respiratory tract infection through droplets and aerosols) or may suggest that other, unidentified animal sources may be involved in Ebola virus transmission to humans.”

“Thus, dogs appear to be the first animal species shown to be naturally and asymptomatically infected by Ebola virus. Asymptomatic Ebola infection in humans has also been observed during outbreaks (18) but is very rare. Although dogs can be asymptomatically infected, they may excrete infectious viral particles in urine, feces, and saliva for a short period before virus clearance, as observed experimentally in other animals. Given the frequency of contact between humans and domestic dogs, canine Ebola infection must be considered as a potential risk factor for human infection and virus spread. Human infection could occur through licking, biting, or grooming. Asymptomatically infected dogs could be a potential source of human Ebola outbreaks and of virus spread during human outbreaks, which could explain some epidemiologically unrelated human cases. Dogs might also be a source of human Ebola outbreaks, such as the 1976 Yambuku outbreaks in Democratic Republic of Congo (19), the 1995 Kikwit outbreak, some outbreaks that occurred in 1996 and 2004 in Gabon and Republic of Congo (5), and the 1976 (6), 1979 (20), and 2004 (21) outbreaks in Sudan, the sources of which are still unknown. Together, these findings strongly suggest that dogs should be taken into consideration during the management of human Ebola outbreaks.”

In other words, when Liberian Thomas Duncan was vomitting all over the sidewalk in Dallas before being carted off to the ER, the neighborhood dogs could have come into contact with it and could be silently out there spreading Ebola as I write this.

Anyway, we’ll post more news as we get it. In the meantime, keep calm and (concealed) carry on.

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