The likelihood of domestic dogs or cats being exposed to the Ebola virus (EBOV) through contact with infected persons in Europe is very low, as those affected are typically isolated promptly.

Scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus budding from the surface of a Vero cell (African green monkey kidney epithelial cell line). Credit: NIAID

However, in the absence of information about possible EBOV infection in pets and potential further onwards transmission, full precautionary measures should be taken when handling pets of persons infected with EBOV.

These are just two of the conclusions taken from a scientific report produced in response to a request from the European Commission to provide advice on risks related to pets having been in contact with people infected with Ebola virus. This assessment was carried out by experts from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and the European Food Safety Authority.

However, authors of the report also identified many knowledge gaps and a lack of data in their assessment – for example, there is currently no evidence that dogs can develop the disease and transmit the virus, nor that cats can become infected.

With this in mind, it is recommended that the public health and veterinary authorities assess the risk of pets becoming infected and transmitting the disease on a case-by-case basis – with the type of contact and the stage of infection being the two factors that authorities should use in their assessment.

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