Is Ebola transmissible between pets and people?

Conclusion: It appears that a person could get ebola from her cat or dog but please read on..

Ebola virus
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Is ebola a zoonotic disease? If it is, it may have a serious impact on the welfare of domestic cats anywhere. I ask because you have probably read that the dog companion, Excalibur, of the Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola was put down and incinerated as he was considered a health risk. Excalibur was destroyed despite a petition of 350,000 people around the world begging the authorities to reconsider their decision.

The nurse, Teresa Romero, 44, was the first person outside of Africa to get the killer disease. As I understand it, about 50% of people who get ebola die from it. There is no cure.

There was no attempt to place the dog into quarantine to see if ebola developed in him thereby confirming a need to euthanise. It was all done in a panic and with a disregard for animal welfare and the views of many others. Other people say the decision to kill the dog was sensible.

Madrid’s regional government obtained a court order to kill the dog. They say that available scientific information cannot rule out the risk of contagion meaning the transmission of ebola from dogs to people.

To date there have been no human ebola infections linked to dogs we are told but how do people know for sure? Dogs are “thought” to contract ebola without symptoms (asymptomatic). If this is true, quarantine would not be beneficial because a dog could just be a carrier without suffering from the disease him/herself.

During an outbreak of ebola in Gabon in 2001-2, 337 dogs were tested and up to 25% had antibodies to the disease meaning they had been exposed to it and the body had created protection.

Ben Neuman a University of Reading virologist says:

“Unlike most viruses, ebola really gets around. It can infect a wide range of animals including bats, rodents, monkeys, apes and a kind of tiny antelope…”

Therefore, we know ebola can infect animals. We don’t know for absolute certainty if it can be transmitted from animals to people, as far as I know (wrong? Please correct me and see CDC statement below).

We don’t know if people can give it to animals but is seems possible or probable. That gap in knowledge needs to be filled I believe. However, if there is a possibility, and what Ben Neuman says indicates that there is, ebola may be zoonotic and therefore it could be transmitted from dogs and cats to people and vice versa.

In fact CDC (USA agency) states on their website:

….researchers have hypothesized that the first patient becomes infected through contact with an infected animal

Chris Kilham writing on Fox news states:

health officials…are certain that it is zoonotic

This is potentially bad news for cats. However, Dee (a regular to PoC) writes in a comment:

According to this week’s Time Magazine, cats are suspected of having immunity to Ebola. This seems to be based on the fact that no cat, even in the wild in Africa, has ever presented with the virus.

We should recognize that the spread of the disease in Sierra Leone is due to a lack of education and poor health care services in that country – a human generated problem in part due to civil war. Also, the international community has been too slow to respond in providing aid on the ground.

There is argument for a lock-down on travel from West Africa to prevent this killer disease spreading to other countries.

Photo credit: NIAID

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

28 thoughts on “Is Ebola transmissible between pets and people?”

  1. Today, I am ashamed to have been one of many who have criticized the money that my country has sent to Africa, knowing that there are impoverished people here too.
    The people of Africa are so devoid of nutrition and knowledge that they have been wide open to the invasion of ebola that has killed countless and has caused worldwide panic. They are not at fault, and I feel so sorry for them.

    1. You are generous in your words. The leaders of the African nations are often complete arseh*les. They are corrupt killers of the worst kind. People like Mugabe have billions in Swiss bank accounts while his people starve. They are often mass criminals. Money is not made available for health facilities. There is civil war often or tribal war and hence the easy spread of ebola.

      1. It’s everywhere, Michael.
        Many Americans have challenged officials (congressmen, legislators)to live on minimum wage salaries.
        Those officials are rich and there are people who are starving in this country which claims to be the richest in the world.
        No doubt that Africa has the same situation. I can only hope that this malady dwindles to them or their loved ones (so sorry) that may teach them to provide for the masses.

      2. Has anyone noticed that this “outbreak” is dying out?
        So much hype, such scare tactics…

        I stand by my opinion that the people of Africa deserve our support. But, the support needs to come with the assurance that it is actually going to the masses. Someone needs to monitor.

        Helping them will save our own lives, for God’s sake.

  2. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    Yes we are doomed, of course we are and it’s the fault of many of the human race, it’s just a pity the good people will suffer along with the bad.

    1. I hope the information is never needed and that the outbreak is stopped within West Africa over the forthcoming months. If not then ebola might become a world event and a catastrophe or some might say a success for nature.

  3. Well considering its been around since 1970’s without spreading since then. I guess its best to not let it Spread. I hear there was a Case in NZ of a Nurse Returning and the Nurse in Australia was Negative I guess its about taking precautions that we are all safe. I do think they need some sort of screening things with People Going on Planes esp in Huge amounts. I mean who would want to go to that Country with so much infection.

  4. |’Perhaps ebola is a reminder that nature is bigger and more powerful than us even though humans believe the opposite.’

    Another jolly morsel of info:

    THS IS THE END (title)

    ‘We are doomed, all of us. That in itself isn’t news: our sun, after all, will balloon up into an Earth-engulfing red giant in 5 billion years. The news is that we – life on Earth, that is – are doomed to expire in 1 billion years, maybe 1.5 billion, depending on whether we succumb to starvation or over-heating first.

    These cheerful calculations come courtesy of climatologists Ken Caldeira and James Kasting, who figured it all out “just for fun,” says Caldeira. Their reasoning goes like this: the sun is slowly growing brighter, heating the Earth more intensely over time. This increases the chemical weathering of silicate rocks, which go on to react with carbon dioxide to form calcium carbonate, the stuff of seashells. The more weathering, then, the more carbon dioxide gets sucked out of the atmosphere. Remove enough carbon dioxide from the air and you put a stop to photosynthesis, the energy-capturing activity of plants that all life relies on, except for a few species of bacteria.

    Actually, Caldeira is optimistic about life’s surviving this first hurdle, which should crop up in a billion years’ time. “Presently existing organisms won’t be able to survive, but my guess is that something will evolve that’s more efficient at extracting carbon dioxide from the environment,” he says.

    But even this new generation of living things will find it hard to deal with the climatic consequences of removing all that CO2. As atmosphere CO2 declines, the world will grow cooler. But once there’s no CO2 left to remove, temperatures will start to spiral upward, due to the sun’s continuing increase in radiance.

    “There’s a real physical limit to life at high temperatures because proteins break down rapidly,” Caldeira notes, (By his computer, things should be too hot to handle at 1.5 billion years.) “Even if something cold get around that, the Earth’s going to lose its water. That’s pretty tough to deal with.”

    The water-losing bit comes right after the infernal heat bit. As temperatures rise, more and more of Earth’s water will migrate to the stratosphere, where ultraviolet radiation will break it up, freeing the hydrogen, which will promptly drift off into space. In one billion more years Earth will be as waterless as Venus.

    If this all sounds pretty gloomy, consider that a 1982 calculation had all life ending only 100 million years from now. (The 900 million year reprieve came mostly from Caldeira and Kasting’s more realistic modeling of the effect of carbon dioxide on the Earth’s temperature.) “In either case, it’s a ways off,’ says Caldera. ‘To tell you the truth, I’m more worried about our getting through the next few decades.”‘ – written by Rose Mestel for the magazine Earth (italics,) July 1993

    Not to despair, though. Astrophysicists theorize there are other potentially earth-like planets for us to gum up, the nearest being @ six to thirteen years from Earth.

    1. We are not doomed.
      We are uneducated.
      Please notice that I have no replies from the “doom and gloom” gang to my comments about Ebola.
      Some people just want to wallow and complain and not learn and spread the truth.
      Perhaps, they need to just inject themselves with megadoses of Insulin and spare themselves.

  5. Great overview, Dee —

    Although you’re trained in all these complexities, I am not, and would have imagined that ebola is catchable if someone infected handled the companion animal.

    Radio broadcasts keep hammering home a couple of points: one of them being that ebola is ‘not easily transmitted.’

    Come again?

    Could have sworn health care providers have said for years that AIDS can be transmitted only through blood and other ‘bodily fluids’ encountered in the horizontal. But then they go on to say that ebola is transmitted through sweat. And hands usually have some small degree of moisture – no? And this falls under the heading of low-risk contagion?

    Other satellite news flashes:

    (1) @ 145 Liberians are entering the U.S. every day.

    (2) ‘Airport inspections’ are pure PR designed to calm a jittery public. No ‘screening’ can prevent epidemics, least of taking the temperature of people wanting to board a flight. Aspirin hides the fever.

    (3) Dallas, Nebraska and Seattle hospitals are quarantining ebola patients.

    (4) One of the leading health care officials in the U.S. (forget his name) said ‘No..we cannot say its transmission beyond Africa is impossible. Only that it’s “unlikely.”‘ (Famous last words.)

    5) ‘Protective garb’ is another delusion. It doesn’t work.

    A fun way to die? Blood oozing from the mouth and eyes? Raging fever? Dehydration? Vomiting and diarrhea? Convulsions?

    Well, Mother Earth will rejoice. Nearly 8 billion people is too many. Maybe their disappearance will give the poor wildlife – crowded out of the picture – a chance to recover.

    1. ebola is ‘not easily transmitted.’

      This seems to be a public calming measure but it is quite easily transmitted as far as I am concerned. Anyway the consequences are so dire any risk is significant.

      I have this feeling that we are learning about ebola on the job.

      Perhaps ebola is a reminder that nature is bigger and more powerful than us even though humans believe the opposite.

    2. Hi Sylvia Ann.
      This outbreak is really no different than what happened with HIV.
      The CDC caused panic; so much so that I had peers who refused to care for positive patients. The ones that weren’t fired cited “religious belief crap” that kept them onboard but left the care to the rest of us.
      This panic needs to stop so people can think clearly.

  6. I think dogs are being thrown under the bus considering there has only been one study done years ago.

    This is from Time also:

    To date, there is no documented case of Ebola spreading to people from dogs or dogs to people, and only one study, carried out by the CDC, looks at whether dogs can get Ebola at all. This research into the prevalence of Ebola-virus antibodies in dogs from regions of Gabon affected by the 2001–2002 outbreak showed that “dogs can be infected by Ebola virus” but exhibit no symptoms and the infection eventually clears.

    The researchers concluded that “dogs could be a potential source of human Ebola outbreaks and of virus spread during human outbreaks,” but they did not test their hypothesis that human infection could occur through licking, biting or grooming. Instead, the study assumed dogs would transmit the infection in the same way as other animals observed in experiments; those animals excreted viral particles (in saliva, urine, feces) for a short period before the virus was cleared. David Moore, an expert in infectious diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that since no dogs showed symptoms of the Ebola virus “there is absolutely no evidence to support a role for dogs in transmission.”

    1. The key to the entire transmission of Ebola is that the infected animal or human must have symptoms in order to spread.


          Q: Are people who were on the plane with this patient at risk?

          Answer per CDC:

          A: A person must have symptoms to spread Ebola to others. The ill person did not exhibit symptoms of Ebola during the flights from West Africa and CDC does not recommend that people on the same commercial airline flights undergo monitoring. The person reported developing symptoms five days after the return flight.

          1. Thanks Dee. I have just read that in order for a person to spread the disease they must have symptoms. The experts say that unless ebola is controlled by December it will be impossible to control because it is expanding exponentially (doubling on doubling).

            1. I don’t believe that the CDC is doing enough to contain the panic. In fact, it seems they are perpetuating it by not fully disclosing everything they know. They did the same with HIV.
              People are having to search for bits and pieces themselves when CDC should get on the media and tell all, especially about how it’s transmitted. Transmission is pretty much the same as HIV only the infected person must be symptomatic. It’s not airborne or waterborne. The risk from saliva or persperation is miniscule.

              1. “The CDC chief exec.says that ebola is the worst health crisis to hit the USA since HIV. He was at an international meeting yesterday.”

                “Since HIV”, yes.

                But, did he address the issues of the past? Polio, smallpox, TB, Hepatitis C, malaria…?

                CDC is causing alarm everywhere.

                Consider the recent case of a Dallas cop quarantined for possible symptoms of Ebola. CDC chose to tell the MEDIA first of his negative results before the patient himself or his family. They’re all about hype. They need this outbreak to keep themselves in the limelight and to play hero.

  7. According to this week’s Time Magazine, cats are suspected of having immunity to Ebola. This seems to be based on the fact that no cat, even in the wild in Africa, has ever presented with the virus.

    Also of interest was that the virus can only be transmitted from human to human when the infected one has symptoms. In other words, it can’t be transmitted if it is just laying dormant. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of any virus not being contagious unless symptoms are present. That’s somewhat reassuring.

      1. Immunity must the case with cats. How many cats, especially in the wild, must have feasted on infected mammals and birds? Yet, no cases of the virus ever appeared.
        Let’s hear it for the felines!

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