Can Dogs Really Transmit Ebola?

When Spanish authorities put down Excalibur, the dog of a nurse who contacted ebola in Africa, animal rights advocates all over the country went ballistic. Can dogs really get sick from ebola? And can they transmit the deadly virus to humans?

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emerging Infectious Diseases published in 2005 suggests that it may be possible.

“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,” the study noted. “Human infection could occur through licking, biting or grooming.”

The study was conducted during an ebola outbreak in Gabon between 2001 and 2002. Alarmingly, 40 out of the 159 dogs that were subjected to the study have detectable levels of ebola in their bloodstream. To make matters worse, 31.8 percent of dogs came from villages whose humans have contacted ebola.

It’s important to take note that infected dogs are not exclusively fed by their owners. They scavenge too.

If the results of the study is even remotely accurate, it would be very hard to know if a dog has ebola just from looking at him. Ebola symptoms did not manifest in dogs who participated in the study so they may be asymptomatic. Nevertheless, they can still transmit viral particles through feces, urine, saliva and other bodily fluids.

But there is no hard evidence that can really back this up which left the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals enraged in Spain’s decision to destroy Excalibur.

“PETA is not aware of any evidence that dogs can transmit Ebola, but even if they can, it seems contrary, unfair and upsetting that while all efforts are being made to save the afflicted woman, none will be made to save Excalibur, a dog who has not contracted the disease and may indeed be unable to do so,” said PETA UK director Mimi Bekhechi. “If the woman survives, her heart will be broken to find that authorities have killed a beloved member of her family.”

There’s still no word on ebola’s original host. According to John Blackwell, President of the British Veterinary Association, they’ve only observed humans, primates and a few other species get sick and transmit ebola. This strongly suggests that the main route for transmission is probably from one human to another.

Source: TIME, Scribd, Mashable

Photo courtesy of The Objective