Ebola Regrets

Posted: Oct 9, 2014
Views: 502 - Comments: 10

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Ebola. It’s crazy now right? First case diagnosed in the United States, US citizens flying back from relief work in Africa to get treated in the US, a nurse’s aide in Spain having “no idea” where she got it (uhhhh, that’s not an appropriate answer to that question) and now her dog has been euthanized.

I’m most upset about the dog. I’m VERY sorry for the human suffering due to this disease, I don’t want to be TOO stereotypical and only worry about the dog in this situation, but as a veterinary technician and lover of science, what a loss. No one really knows what the ebola virus does in domesticated animals. It’s something we should kinda try to figure out. While I am not fear-mongering (hello news stations, chill) and heading to my underground bunker just yet, the virus is spreading and it’s not too far-fetched to think that it’s going to spread to other cities in the US. Lots of us have pets. Are we okay with just euthanizing every pet that’s come in contact with an infected person?

There is some research that says dogs may simply carry the ebola virus and show no symptoms. Scary. But can they pass it to humans? How? Through saliva? Feces? Urine? Vomit? Do humans have to ingest it? Absorb via mucous membranes? Is casual contact going to spread it? How do dogs get the virus? Casual contact with infected humans? Ingestion of infected tissue? Contact with sweat? Urine? Feces? Vomit? Really, the point of this blog was to see how many times I could write “feces” and still sound smart…

The dog in Spain that was euthanized for living with an infected person was showing no clinical signs of illness. What a loss to the scientific community that reactionary fear took over. This dog could have been quarantined and monitored. Blood drawn weekly, feces and urine and saliva samples taken and studied. Spain is not a third world country. They have the ability to protect their scientists from Ebola and could have done so when interacting with this dog. The dog was not a wild and vicious dog, it probably would have been relatively easy to quarantine and work with. We know the incubation period in humans, is it unreasonable to give that dog three weeks? Six weeks? Six months? 

Whatever your feelings on the dog and what happened to him, this was an important opportunity for science. Whatever your feelings on using animals for research, it’s how we learn. And quarantining a dog isn’t cruel testing. It’s an opportunity to learn so much about a dangerous emerging disease. Animal shelters and veterinary hospitals all over Spain are getting panicked phone calls about ebola in dog parks and neighborhood sidewalks. Too bad no one has any answers for them. As science and medicine professionals, we have a responsibility not only to our animal patients, but to the humans who interact with them. The science world let all of them down when that dog was euthanized.