Huddersfield on a wet day in October seems very far removed from Tropical West Africa and yet I have had several clients in the last week who have enquired about the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa and the implications it may have for their pet.
Ebola Virus has been endemic in West Africa for years but there has recently been a huge increase in cases. The international community has probably been late to waken up to the threat posed by Ebola and has now started to send aid workers to help to treat the victims of Ebola and to contain the outbreak.
Sadly, there have been cases of Foreign Aid Workers becoming infected and due to the incubation period of the disease, signs have not emerged until the individuals have returned to their home country. Veterinary attention has been sparked by the case of the Spanish nurse who developed Ebola and who’s dog was subsequently destroyed. Concerns were raised over the potential role that dogs could play in the spread of Ebola Virus.
There is very little published information on Ebola in domestic animals but one study, undertaken by the Center for Disease Control, demonstrated that dogs exposed to Ebola virus did show sero-conversion (ie developed an immune response) but without developing clinical signs.
Although it is thought that initial human infection may have been from an unidentified infected animal species, the disease, in humans, spreads via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, faeces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola, or objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus.
While there is no evidence that domestic animals have been implicated in the spread of the disease, precautionary advice to those in the front line is to take great care when handling dogs, or other animals, known to have been in contact with an infected person.