Snufflufflitis and Other Unthinkable Maladies

A lot of controversy has been raised in recent weeks over Bentley, the dog of Nina Pham who became the the first case of Ebola contracted on U.S. soil. Thankfully, due to a very skilled medical staff and plasma treatments, Nina Pham is cured. The first thing she wants to do when she gets home, give Bentley a hug.

Unfortunately, Bentley is still under quarantine until early November. He has tested negative, but the incubation period of Ebola is 2 to 21 days, which makes the standard quarantine procedures recommend a minimum of 21 days.

As an upbeat group, ADinLOS tends to focus on positive stories, but we always look for an opportunity to learn. And the recent media attention brought forth an opportunity to learn something we knew little about; Animal-Human Illness Contraction. So we did our research to find a clearer picture.

We’ve heard a number of people spreading ‘facts’ about how Ebola is transmitted. These facts range from “Mr. Snuffles loves me too much to get me sick” to “your cat started the plague, and they’re back to finish us off”. Ok, so these are really opinion, but the passion people exude when discussing is so palpable, they are able to convince other people that it is fact. The reality is, the truth lies somewhere in between, and our experts aren’t positive what that line is.

Both the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization) outline useful, yet repetitious information.

Ebola’s origin is not clear, but it is thought that fruit bats…are natural Ebola virus hosts.

Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms. [1]

Ebola then spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids. [1]

Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery from illness. [1]

The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. [1]

Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food.[1]

There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only a few species of mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus. [2]

Specifically regarding our four legged friends, the case made is convincing but it sounds like speculation more than fact.

In addition, the CDC professes:

There is limited evidence that dogs become infected with Ebola virus, but there is no evidence that they develop disease. [3]

Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola. [3]

CDC regulations require that dogs and cats imported into the United States be healthy. [3]

Additional information and guidance will be posted on this website as well as partner websites as soon as it becomes available. [3]

I’m guessing this means we have either no official clinical tests, or very few. We’ve never had a real Ebola threat before, and if African countries have no real evidence of transmission via dogs and cats, why should we. Their time is probably best spent elsewhere.

So where does all this leave us with our pets. Let’s backtrack a bit to less controversial disease transmission. How do we know what diseases a dogs and cats can transmit?

The answer really depends on what is causing your pet’s illness.

Most illnesses like the common cold and the flu are separate strains and do not affect pets and humans the same way. Therefore they cannot be reciprocally exchanged. [4]

Then we move on to zoonotic diseases. These can be difficult to understand on their own. Some you can contract from you pet. Some will make your pet sick, and some won’t.

There are a minimum of 39 important diseases that people catch directly from animals, 42 important diseases that people get by eating or touching food or water contaminated with animal feces, and at least 48 important diseases that humans can get from the bite of bugs that feasted on an infected animal. [5]

Lice, Lyme Disease, Scabies, Toxoplasmosis, Salmonella, and Rabies are some of the more common.

It is important to note, that while some disease that are not serious to us, may not be to our pets, and vice versa. Most of us would consider lice to be vexing, to pets it can cause serious complications.

Here’s where Ebola makes its triumphant return. If it is possible for a dog or cat to contract Ebola but not show symptoms, how would they transfer it to us? Humans need direct contact with the disease to transfer. Can a cat scratch or bite cause it? Or contact with dog feces?

I’m always happy to hear a happy story about a people being reunited with their pet, but the mutual relationship between our pets is supposed to help us achieve longer, happier lives. Not the other way around. Hopefully our experts find this out sooner than later.

[1] World Health Organization. Ebola virus disease. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/ Updated September 2014, Retrieved October, 24 2014.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease), Transmission. http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/index.html?s_cid=cs_3923 Update October 22, 2014, Retrieved October, 24 2014.

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease), Questions and Answers about Ebola and Pets. http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/qas-pets.html Update October 13, 2014, Retrieved October, 24 2014.

[4] Kristina Duda, R.N. About Health. Can I Catch a Cold From My Pet?.
http://coldflu.about.com/od/faqaboutthecold/a/petssick.htm Updated July 24, 2014, Retrieved October 24 2014.

[5] Melissa Breyer. Mother Nature Network. 14 diseases you can get from your pets. http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/14-diseases-you-can-get-from-your-pets Mon, Sep 10, 2012. Retrieved October 24, 2014.

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