The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) has called on all national health services and health professionals, including medical doctors and vets, to be “vigilant and well prepared” as the Ebola virus continues to affect lives in West Africa and beyond.

The FVE says Ebola’s zoonotic abilities make it a true “one health” issue.

According to FVE, the virus can live and multiply in different mammalian species and it is also zoonotic, so can spread between animals and humans, and as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats and humans can become infected, it is, says FVE, a “good illustration” of the one health concept, which considers human and animal health as one common domain.

“The Ebola virus is not an airborne disease and only symptomatic patients are contagious,” said the federation. “Transmission requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of dead or living infected persons or animals, and the risk of infection is considered very low if precautions are strictly followed.

“So far there are neither licensed vaccines nor treatments against the virus, and the best way to stop the spread of the virus and the disease is strict hygiene and personal protection measures, including quarantine of persons who are both infected and suspected to be.”

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has issued a technical information sheet on the Ebola virus, outlining epidemiological observations and scientific knowledge of the disease including the animal reservoir. The European Commission, meanwhile, is working with EU member states to coordinate approaches on prevention and preparation.

The FVE’s call comes after Spanish regional authorities obtained a court order to euthanise the pet dog of a nurse who tested positive for the Ebola virus.

Although it is possible dogs may harbour the virus, said FVE – particularly in endemic areas where they roam and have access to infected animal carcasses – house pets potentially exposed in developed countries represent a “very different risk scenario“.

Although dogs can seroconvert to Ebola virus, said the federation, to date, the virus has never been isolated from a dog. Therefore, the Spanish case “should not create a precedent where euthanasia is automatically considered the preferred option when considering how to deal with companion animals that have been in contact with people who have tested positive for the Ebola virus”.

Incidents should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis by a multi-disciplinary team applying science-based risk assessment, it said.

For more information on the Ebola virus and to download the OIE fact sheet, visit its website.

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