The Ebola Disease in NYC! Are Your Pets Safe?

Well, it finally happened. A doctor that recently returned from Guinea tested positive for Ebola on Thursday. What’s more, he is now being held in isolation at New York’s Bellevue Hospital Center. That’s right – the Ebola disease has officially made it’s way to the biggest city on the eastern seaboard. As such, a lot of concerns are starting to arise: how do you get Ebola? Am I at risk? What about my pets?

As it stands, you are still 3.5 times more likely to be eaten by a shark anywhere in the world than you are to contract Ebola in America. And unless you live on Amity Island or swim around the ocean with fistfuls of chum, your odds of becoming shark bait are 1 in 3.7 million. That puts your odds of getting Ebola at a staggering 1 in 13.3 million.

“But isn’t the Ebola disease highly contagious?”

You might be asking yourself this. And you are not wrong. In the right circumstances, Ebola can spread like wildfire. However, those circumstances happen to be direct contact with blood, saliva, and other bodily excretions of a person showing visible signs of Ebola. It is not an airborne contagion, nor can you catch it from someone that isn’t visibly symptomatic. And in America, where we have the resources to actually quarantine people showing signs of infection, the likelihood that you come into contact with anyone carrying the virus are next to zero.

“Well, what are the symptoms?”

“A guy with a runny nose just sneezed on me!” you could be shouting. Well, fear not. The symptoms of Ebola are:

  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Unexplained hemorrhaging (bleeding or bruising)

“What about my pets? Are they safe?”

A very good question. While people are generally unlikely to handle an infected person’s fluids, our dogs and cats tend to be a little more adventurous in regards to what they eat/roll around in.  One study conducted by the CDC in 2002 states that “dogs can be infected by Ebola virus and that the putative infection is asymptomatic.” In layman’s terms, that means yes, dogs can contract Ebola, but they do so without showing any symptoms or effects. So while your dog could pick up Ebola and potentially pass it along (the transmission mechanism, if any, is still largely unknown), they themselves will not get sick.

As for cats, there are no conclusive studies stating their ability to carry the disease one way or the other.

“What does it all mean?”

All this boils down to one thing – neither you or your pets are in any immediate danger. Yes, Ebola is here. And yes, it is a very scary and serious condition. However, the fact that we live in a fully developed country with state-of-the-art medical facilities gives us a serious leg up in terms of quelling the outbreak of this deadly disease. Just make sure to steer clear of people that look visibly sick (which is just a good idea anyway), practice careful hygiene, and closely monitor what your pet puts in their mouth.

Sources:
CDC – Ebola Virus Antibody Prevalence in Dogs and Human Risk
CDC – Questions and Answers on Ebola
NPR – What’s My Risk Of Catching Ebola?

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