Ebola virus update

Over the weekend, we learned of the second case of Ebola in the U.S. – a Dallas nurse. While healthcare professionals tend to her care, Bentley, her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is under the care of veterinary public health officials.

To address the questions and concerns related to animals and Ebola virus, the AVMA is collaborating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), other agencies and experts to develop information about the Ebola virus and animals for our members and the public.  Unfortunately, there are no approved vaccines, drugs, or products specifically for Ebola available for purchase online or in stores.

We have collected the most current information into a new resource on Ebola, which you can find at avma.org/Ebola, and which we will continue to update as more information becomes available. The resource includes targeted information for veterinarians, an FAQ for your clients, and a link to the CDC’s Questions and Answers about Ebola and Pets.

Photo: CDC / Cynthia Goldsmith

Photo: CDC / Cynthia Goldsmith

Key Points:

  • The relative risk of exposure to Ebola virus in the U.S. is extremely low, as there have been only a small number of isolated human cases and no known animal cases.
  • Although EVD is a zoonotic disease, there has not been evidence of its transmission to humans from dogs. Indeed, it is not even known if dogs are capable of contracting and then transmitting the disease. A study analyzing the 2001-2002 Ebola virus outbreak in Gabon found antibodies against the virus in about 25% of dogs in the affected area, but no virus was found in them. Furthermore, none of the animals showed signs or died of the disease during the study period. The study only indicated that the animals had encountered the Ebola virus.
  • In the event a pet is in contact with an Ebola virus patient, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) calls for quarantine not euthanasia for dogs exposed to Ebola.  The CDC recommends that if a pet is in the home of an EVD patient, veterinarians, in collaboration with public health officials, should evaluate the pet’s risk of exposure (close contact and exposure to blood or body fluids of an EVD patient). Appropriate measures, such as closely monitoring the exposed pet while using necessary precautions, should be taken based on that evaluation.
  • Regarding the risk of Ebola from other animals, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) states that there is no evidence that domestic animals play an active role in the transmission of disease to humans.  Researchers believe that in Africa the spread of Ebola is a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. The human patient can then spread the infection through direct contact (not through air, water, or generally by food).

For further information:

The development of information is an ongoing process, and this information will be updated as the AVMA collaborates with subject matter experts and authorities. Please check this blog for further updates. If you have questions that have not been addressed in the materials provided here or below, please contact your veterinarian or email us at avmainfo@avma.org.