NEW YORK (MainStreet) — American’s are bewildered by Ebola. With reports that those in the medical profession feel ill-equipped to deal with the virus and with a growing anxiety of contagion, people are concerned about travel, an expanding number of potential Ebola contacts and how the virus has come this far. Many are wondering: how does the virus spread and what are the risks?
Though the virus is considered to be animal-borne, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the disease is primarily a threat to humans and primates – monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees. However, bats are “the most likely reservoir” of the virus.
Are household pets at risk of contracting – and spreading – the illness?
The CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Veterinary Medical Association say the likely answer is no.
“Scientists believe that the first patient becomes infected through contact with an infected animal, such as a fruit bat or primate,” the CDC says. “In the current West African epidemic, animals have not been found to be a factor in ongoing Ebola transmission.”
The agency says that there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming ill with the Ebola virus, or of being capable of spreading the disease to human beings.
“Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola," the agency says. "There is limited evidence that dogs become infected with Ebola virus, but there is no evidence that they develop disease."
However, the CDC admits that it does not yet know if a pet’s body, paws or fur can contract the disease and spread it to other animals or humans. There is no routine test for Ebola available for pets.
And while bats and monkeys can spread the virus, mosquitoes are not suspected of being carriers.
“There is no evidence that mosquitoes or other insects can transmit Ebola virus," the CDC says. "Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys and apes) have shown the ability to spread and become infected with Ebola virus.”
--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet