The odds of a dog or cat contracting or spreading Ebola virus are slim to none, but the American Veterinary Medical Association is taking no chances.
The organization this week released guidelines advising how veterinarians and public health officials should assess and possibly quarantine an animal that had contact with someone who is or may be infected with Ebola. The documents outline everything from finding a caretaker for a person’s pet to step-by-step instructions for keeping an animal in lockdown for 21 days or more.
If a pet somehow becomes infected with Ebola virus, the guidelines recommend euthanizing and incinerating the animal.
The guidelines were prepared by the AVMA Ebola Companion Animal Response Plan Working Group and are available on the members-only page at AVMA.org. The panel, made up of public health agencies and other experts, was chaired by Casey Barton Behravesh, MS, DVM, DrPH, Dipl. ACVPM, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Work on the guidelines began in October, when human Ebola cases emerged in Spain and the United States. A Spanish patient’s dog was quickly euthanized—unnecessarily, critics said—while a Texas dog was quarantined for 21 days and released after showing no symptoms and testing negative.
The quarantine document recommends that anyone transporting or handling a selected animal wear protective gear, that the pet’s collar, bedding and all other possessions be left behind, and that the animal be monitored for fever and other signs of illness while at a secured location.
Minimum equipment for a quarantined pet’s handlers include double gloves, a splash-resistant disposable hooded suit, goggles or a face shield, and an air-purifying respirator.
AVMA emphasized that the infection risk for U.S. cats and dogs is virtually nonexistent. Even in West Africa, where more than 5,000 people have died from the disease, “there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread Ebola to people or animals.”