Ebola Regrets

Posted: Oct 9, 2014
Views: 1810 - 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. 

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Comments

Becky Smith's picture

It made me so sad to hear about the dog! Poor owner struggling to survive Ebola andher dog is euthanized. People are gross.

Ron  Morgan's picture

Really great blog on a very current topic. Sad how this was handled. Great job Megan!

lois delahuerta's picture

Your right we had the perfect opportunity to put science to the test and they blew it! They wasted a great animal and showed the world how truly stupid they we're.

MOSTAFA EL GAMAL's picture

Hello, I would ask if the disease is already confirmed as zoonotic, what other animals can be affected with or without symptoms other than dogs? thanks

Megan Brashear's picture

Mostafa, the disease (to my knowledge) has NOT been comfirmed as zoonotic in domesticated animals. We know that dogs are carriers but no reported transmission to humans through casual contact. No knowledge of ebola in domesticated cats. Information is coming out daily, but nothing definitive. I'm hopeful that the dog in Texas is being quarantined and excited about what we can learn!

Cheryl Kirk's picture

As a research tech of 7 years, and a tech for 30 years this coming March I am so relieved to hear people talk about research and its usefullness, not as a demon from hell, animal killing machine. I agree the dog should have been quarantined so we could learn if we need to take the precautions with the animals of the people with this disease. It saddens me that this is a lost opportunity and the dogs life may have been wasted. First thing you learn in research, no animal goes to waste. I truly hope the animal in Texas will be tested and monitored so we can learn and hopefully avoid a panic. I will always support research because it helps both animals and humans.

Margaret Wheeler's picture

Megan - This is a great discussion. I'm curious about the current understanding that dogs are carriers and whether you know how/where to access the studies that have shown this to be true? Your blog post carries just the right balance of concern for understanding what is a very frightening and little understood disease, and the need for calm, rational, scientific action. I also agree with Cheryl... this demonstrates the important role our animals play in understanding how disease impacts our species and theirs.

Christine seminerio's picture

Ebola is definitely a zoonotic disease. The villagers in Africa get it from infected bats and other infected wild animals they eat. If you read the papers that performed testing (example: Ebola Virus Antibody Prevalence in Dogs and Human Risk)they state the dogs in Africa and other places were infected with Ebola. The article outright says it is a risk to humans even though there is no current documented case of a dog passing it to a human. Because the dogs were asymptomatic, they need further testing to determine if they will transmit the virus or not.
I agree it is very unlikely this situation will become a problem with domestic animals. I hope the dog in Texas can provide some answers. I hope everyone keeps calm and takes things one step at a time.

Ashley Morin's picture

I love that you have brought up this subject. Thank you for an insightful article and for having the courage to ask this important question. I appreciate you putting the thought into some real solutions and proactive endeavors towards this mishandled world situation.

Megan Brashear's picture

As the dog in Texas was recently reunited with his owner, I'm happy to see how the US handled this case. Although only one case, it gave us information about casual contact between humans and dogs and while it doesn't rule out that dogs won't contact ebola from living with an infected person, it proves that we can successfully quarantine and study these dogs. I'm proud to work with all of you who are questioning and thinking and standing up for the animals as well as the knowledge we can gain from them.