What is the Role of Dogs in Transmitting Ebola?
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM

Dr. Michael W. Fox
December 2014

Humans may put themselves at risk dismembering and consuming infected dogs (a common practice in many parts of the world) and other animals such as bats, antelope, monkeys, chimpanzees and other wild animal sources of "bush meat." This is the primary source of Ebola infection in human consumers. It then can spread rapidly between humans via various body secretions. So rather than exterminating community dogs, public health authorities should take action to keep them healthy and outlaw the bush meat trade.

The relatively low transmissibility of the Ebola virus, at least to date, pales before the highly infective airborne influenza strains that affect millions of people annually, along with E. coli, salmonella and other bacterial foodborne illnesses, which come from the epidemic disease-creating centers of our cruel and inhumane pig, cattle and poultry factory farms.

Question from S.A., La Belle, Florida

What is your opinion about the role of dogs in transmitting Ebola? A dog who was living with an infected person in Spain was killed, but one in the United States was put in quarantine. Some fear dogs will be blamed for helping spread this disease in West African countries and subsequently poisoned and killed.

Answer

Dear S.A.:

This is a pertinent question, considering the hysteria over this virulent but not highly contagious disease. Reports that dogs have dug up and eaten Ebola victims' corpses -- they have eaten human waste and corpses for millennia -- may lead to hysterical persecution and mass killings of dogs, which could make the situation even worse. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association is calling for testing and quarantine and opposing automatic euthanasia of dogs who have been in contact with infected people.

Dogs serve a significant public hygiene service in many communities by consuming garbage, human waste and carrion, which reduces the potential spread of various diseases by flies and other animals. Through a process called "passage," infective organisms, such as viruses (like Ebola) and harmful bacteria, may lose their virulence when taken in by community dogs; any that survive passing through the dogs may be rendered harmless to humans once through the dog.

Humans may put themselves at risk dismembering and consuming infected dogs (a common practice in many parts of the world) and other animals such as bats, antelope, monkeys, chimpanzees and other wild animal sources of "bush meat." This is the primary source of Ebola infection in human consumers. It then can spread rapidly between humans via various body secretions. So rather than exterminating community dogs, public health authorities should take action to keep them healthy and outlaw the bush meat trade. Some see Ebola as nature's revenge or divine retribution. But these kinds of public health crises will never end until we have the same compassionate concern for our own families and for the victims of the next plague we bring upon ourselves as we must have for the health and well-being of all animals and the natural environment under the banner of One Health, One Earth. (For details, see my recent book, "Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health.")

The relatively low transmissibility of the Ebola virus, at least to date, pales before the highly infective airborne influenza strains that affect millions of people annually, along with E. coli, salmonella and other bacterial foodborne illnesses, which come from the epidemic disease-creating centers of our cruel and inhumane pig, cattle and poultry factory farms.

Thanks to the World Bank and other international agribusiness aid and development organizations, these concentrated animal feeding operations have proliferated globally. We need to consider the personal and public health, animal welfare and environmental/ecological wisdom of vegetarianism and humane sustainable agriculture coupled with addressing the most serious planetary plague -- human overpopulation.


Dr. Michael W. Fox is a well-known veterinarian, former vice president of The Humane Society of the United States, former vice president of Humane Society International and the author of more than 40 adult and children’s books on animal care, animal behavior and bioethics. He is also a graduate veterinarian from the Royal Veterinary College, London, whose research lead to a PhD (Medicine) and a DSc (ethology/animal behavior) from the University of London, England. 


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