Unlike Spain, Dallas health care worker’s dog will be saved

Mary Schlangenstein, Caroline Chen and Jason Gale (c) 2014, Bloomberg News. DALLAS — Dallas won’t kill the dog of a health care worker who came down with Ebola.

Unlike Excalibur, the dog owned by a Spanish nursing assistant infected with Ebola that was euthanized last week, the canine in Dallas will be sent to a new location to await its owner’s recovery, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said.

“We just felt the dog is very important to this hero of a health-care giver and we’re going to do anything we can to help,” Rawlings said in an interview in Dallas. The dog will be moved from the house to a safe location and be cared for by the city, he said. “I believe the pet hasn’t caught anything.”

Rawlings wouldn’t give the dog’s name or breed.

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Dogs and pigs are among the domestic animals found able carry the virus. Researchers in the West African country of Gabon detected Ebola antibodies in 40 dogs in an outbreak area a decade ago, though the dogs weren’t showing symptoms.

Some of the Gabon dogs were observed eating fresh remains of Ebola-infected animals, and licking vomit from Ebola patients, according to a report published in CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal in 2005.

“Given the frequency of contact between humans and domestic dogs, canine Ebola infection must be considered as a potential risk factor for human infection and virus spread,” the researchers from the International Medical Research Centre of Franceville, Gabon, said. Human infection could occur through licking, biting, or grooming.

Infected pigs can transmit Ebola virus to monkeys in a farm-like setting, researchers from Canada’s National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease found in an experiment.

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They also found that pigs could transmit the virus to primates through airborne means, a risk that “may need to be considered in assessing transmission from animals to humans in general,” the researchers said in a study published in Scientific Reports in 2012.

Animal-rights activists had protested all night outside the apartment block in Alcorcon, near Madrid, where the 12-year-old Excalibur lived with the health worker diagnosed with Ebola on Oct. 6. There’s no evidence pets play an active role in transmitting the deadly viral disease to humans, according to the World Organization for Animal Health.

News about the Dallas dog was first reported by USA Today.

“It’s just because of the ‘Ebola’ word that seems to have everyone panicked,” said Yolanda Eisenstein, an animal- protection lawyer and adjunct professor at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas. “But if the dog is not going to transfer the virus to people, I don’t see the reason to euthanize the dog except to feed people’s paranoia.”

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Excalibur wasn’t showing symptoms and wasn’t tested for Ebola before he was destroyed. Spanish health officials may have taken a precautionary approach that supports taking protective action in the absence of complete scientific proof of a risk, the International Society for Infectious Diseases’ ProMED-mail program said in an email Monday. “In some legal systems, as in the law of the European Union, the application of the precautionary principle has been made a statutory requirement in some areas of law,” it said.

Health authorities believed the action was necessary because of the risk the dog could spread the disease, Fernando Simon, coordinator of the center of alerts and emergencies at Spain’s health ministry, told COPE radio station on Oct. 8.

“There is much we don’t know about how a dog might acquire Ebola virus infection,” said Ian Mackay, an associate professor of clinical virology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. “When and whether dogs transmit Ebola virus to humans in general, and if canines’ infections are always asymptomatic, remains poorly understood.”

Almost 8,400 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain and the U.S. as of Oct. 8, said the World Health Organization. There have been 4,033 fatalities, among them doctors and nurses caring for the sick. More than 400 health-care workers have been infected in West Africa and 233 of them have died.

Test results confirmed that a health-care worker at Texas Presbyterian Hospital has Ebola, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. That worker provided care for Thomas Eric Duncan, the only person known to have died of the disease in the U.S.

Duncan was hospitalized on Sept. 28, after initially being sent home, until his death on Oct. 8.

The health-care worker was isolated soon after she reported symptoms. One close contact has been identified and is being monitored, CDC said.

A 15-person crew was to clean the exterior of the health- care worker’s building over the weekend before moving onto the inside of the apartment tomorrow, Brad Smith, with CG Environmental – The Cleaning Guys, told reporters yesterday.

The dog is still inside the apartment, Smith said, adding that he’d seek assistance from the Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and consult with the CDC about pet waste in the yard.

“Something went wrong” at the hospital to infect the health-care worker, he said. “We won’t let that happen to our guys.”

The Ebola virus jumps to humans from infected animals including chimpanzees, gorillas and bats. Human infections haven’t been linked to dogs, according to International SOS, which provides emergency services to companies.

While fruit bats are considered a natural reservoir, the involvement of other species in the Ebola virus transmission cycle is unclear, especially for domesticated animals, a review paper published last year said.

— Chen reported from New York, Gale from Melbourne, Australia. Macarena Munoz contributed from Madrid.