Veterinarians urge separation of pets, people at high Ebola risk

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is recommending that people with known exposure to Ebola give up their pets for 21 days or yield care duties to another member of their household.

The AVMA guidance was announced to the press on Wednesday as part of the group's first official counsel on the possibility of Ebola transmission via dogs and cats.

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While there have been no known Ebola transmissions or cases in either animal, veterinarians said people at high risk for developing the virus should find someone else to care for their pets during the period of direct, active monitoring.

"Should a person become ill with Ebola, dogs, cats, and possibly other pets who came into contact with the patient must be assessed for exposure and may be placed in mandatory quarantine for at least 21 days following their last known exposure to the person with Ebola," the group said in a five-page guidance document dated Nov. 10.

"This situation can be avoided if the pet is moved out of the residence of the person being monitored for Ebola before any symptoms start in the person," the document stated. 

The recommendations follow vast public interest in the dogs of two nurses who contracted and later recovered from Ebola in Spain and the United States.

One nurse, Madrid resident Maria Teresa Romero Ramos, was receiving treatment at a hospital on Oct. 8 when her dog was euthanized due to possible exposure to Ebola.

The decision to euthanize the dog, Excalibur, sparked a global outcry and debate over how governments should care for pets who might be carrying the virus.

The other nurse, Dallas resident Nina Pham, was reunited with her dog, Bentley, after being released from the National Institutes of Health on Nov. 1. The Cavalier King Charles spaniel had been quarantined for 21 days and twice tested negative for Ebola.

In pages of detailed guidance, the AVMA also sought to help public health officials decide whether and how to quarantine pets that had contact with an Ebola patient.

Officials are urged to follow a process similar to what is recommended for humans: conducting a risk assessment for the animal while collecting travel and contact information.

If a quarantine is ordered, the AVMA said officials should use full personal protective gear during the pet's transport and clean and disinfect the vehicle after arrival.

Later, anyone caring for the animal is advised to wear personal protective equipment, including a respirator, and monitor their body temperature for fever twice a day.

The group said its guidance was developed with help from the Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.