HEALTH AND WELLNESS
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Should a person become ill with Ebola, dogs, cats, and possibly other pets who came into contact with the patient must be assessed for exposure and may be placed in mandatory quarantine for at least 21 days following their last known exposure to the person with Ebola.
THERE have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola virus or of being able to spread Ebola to people or other animals. However, it is important to keep people and animals away from blood or body fluids of a person with symptoms of Ebola infection. The American Veterinary Medical Association, however, released in Nov. 2014 an interim guidance for health officials based on the latest scientific evidence and recommendations from national organizations, for the management of pets, specifically dogs and cats, owned by Ebola virus disease (Ebola) contacts.
The following recommendations from the AVMA working groups have been published by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association in its website.
There is currently no evidence that Ebola virus can infect non-mammals kept as pets, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, or fish. But certain exotic or unusual pets (such as monkeys, apes, or pigs) have a higher risk of being infected with and shedding Ebola virus.
Experts recommended that public health officials should ask all contacts of Ebola patients about the type and number of pets in the home, and about other activities that involve contact with animals, including pets and livestock (i.e., occupations, hobbies, farm or zoo visits, or work with service animals). Data collection will help human and animal health officials plan for possible animal quarantine.
The guidance document stipulates that unless a person under Active Monitoring becomes symptomatic, they do not need to limit exposure to companion animals. This is because these individuals were determined to have a low, but not zero risk, based on their exposure to a person with a confirmed Ebola infection.
However, experts stressed that people under Direct Active Monitoring should avoid contact with dogs, cats, livestock (e.g. pigs, cattle, sheep, and goats), and other mammals to prevent possible transmission of Ebola from people to animals and also to prevent the need for quarantine of an animal due to contact with a person with symptomatic Ebola.
It is recommended that dogs or cats be cared for by someone who does not reside in the monitored person’s residence until the direct active monitoring period ends. Other types of pets in the home should be evaluated for risk on a case-by-case basis.
Considerations about Pet Quarantine
Should a person become ill with Ebola, dogs, cats, and possibly other pets who came into contact with the patient must be assessed for exposure and may be placed in mandatory quarantine for at least 21 days following their last known exposure to the person with Ebola. This situation can be avoided if the pet is moved out of the residence of the person being monitored for Ebola before any symptoms start in the person.
It is recommended (not required) that pet(s) owned by an asymptomatic person under direct active monitoring be removed from the human contact’s home, the paper stated.
Public health officials are encouraged to work with the pet owner to determine if someone, preferably someone who does not reside in the monitored person’s residence, can care for the pet until the direct active monitoring period ends. This will eliminate the risk of a mandatory 21-day quarantine of the pet and the need to evaluate the pet for exposure if the contact should become ill.
Because the potentially exposed person is not symptomatic and therefore not potentially shedding Ebola virus, the pet poses no risk to other caretakers or contacts if it is removed from the household. No restrictions would be required on the pet’s activities if it were moved to another household.
If Owner Chooses to Keep Pet at Home during Direct Active Monitoring
Members of the AVMA working group also suggested that if it is not possible to have another person care for the pet outside the home, it is essential that the owner appoints a guardian for their pet(s) in case the owner becomes ill and cannot make decisions.
If the pet is still in the home if and when the contact becomes ill, human and animal health officials must perform a risk assessment of the pet to determine its risk for exposure to Ebola.
Health experts also noted that if the person develops symptoms that could be consistent with Ebola infection, the pet cannot be moved from the home until after a risk assessment for exposure to Ebola has been performed and public health veterinarians, in collaboration with human and animal health officials, determine whether or not quarantine is required.
For Pet Owners Who Had Contact with an Ebola Patient
If you become sick with fever or any symptoms including severe headache, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or bruising or bleeding not known to be linked to an existing medical diagnosis:
* Immediately contact your local health department or medical treatment facility at first indication of illness (such as a higher body temperature). Report where your pet(s) will be safely located in the home.
* Be prepared to provide details to a public health official that includes types of contact your pet may have had with you while you had symptoms. A public health veterinarian, in collaboration with public health officials, will determine if your pet is at risk for exposure to Ebola and how to properly care for the pet.
* Pets must not leave the premises for any reason until an exposure assessment is made by your health officials. Stop all direct contact with other people and avoid all interactions with pet(s) including petting, holding, kissing, snuggling, sharing food, or letting pet lick you.
* Keep people and animals away from your blood or body fluids.
* The pet should be placed in a crate, bathroom, or spare bedroom with food and water to keep the pet safe.
* If possible, another person in your household should handle the pet while ensuring it is safely separated from you.
* If you live alone, you should avoid all direct contact with the pet while making sure the pet is safely separated from you.
More information on Ebola and animals is available here: www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/qas
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