U.S. veterinarians issue guidelines for handling pets exposed to Ebola

By Fiona Ortiz
Demonstrators with pets hold signs in support of Excalibur, the dog of the Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola, outside her apartment in Alcorcon, near Madrid, October 8, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

By Fiona Ortiz

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An American veterinary group issued guidelines on Wednesday on how to handle and potentially quarantine pet cats and dogs that may have been exposed to humans with Ebola.

Dogs and cats are not known to be capable of getting or spreading Ebola. But Spanish health officials killed a dog belonging to a nurse who got Ebola, stirring widespread protest. U.S. authorities quarantined the dog of an American nurse with the virus.

The guidelines from the American Veterinary Medical Association aim to help state governments plan their response to Ebola, which has killed more than 5,000 people in an outbreak in West Africa and a handful of people in Europe and the United States.

According to the guidelines, state health officials should evaluate a pet's exposure to a patient with Ebola and contact with other humans and animals, with detailed questions about where the pet sleeps and and where it has gone outside the home.

Based on that assessment, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can help public health officials decide whether to quarantine a pet. The veterinarians provided a detailed list of protocols for transporting an animal to quarantine, handling its food and waste and protecting caretakers from exposute.

Ebola testing of animals will be done only in specific cases in consultation with the CDC, the veterinary group said.

If an animal tests positive for the virus, not just for antibodies, the pet should be euthanized and incinerated, the guidelines said.

(Editing by Peter Cooney)