Risk assessment on the role of dogs in the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa

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The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest reported Ebola epidemic in history. In August 2014, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013 and spread to the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Mali. Imported cases were also reported in Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. As of April 1st, 2015, there have been over 25,000 confirmed, probable and suspected cases and almost 10,500 reported deaths. In late summer 2014, news reports started surfacing of dogs being in contact with the tissues and bodily fluids of Ebola-infected humans and human cadavers. There is limited information available regarding Ebola virus disease in dogs. One retrospective study reported that dogs from villages with Ebola-infected animal carcasses and human cases had a seroprevalence of 31.8% for Ebola virus antibodies, suggesting that they could be subclinically infected (Allela et al, 2005). However, epidemiological data from previous Ebola outbreaks have shown that the index case often results from contact with an infected wild animal, which then subsequently results in human-human transmission of the disease. Given the uncertainties and the potential for dogs to play a role in the current outbreak, a risk assessment was conducted to estimate the risk of dogs acting as fomites in the human-to-human chain of transmission (indirect transmission) and the risk of dog-to-human transmission (direct transmission) of Ebola virus. Based on currently available information, the assessment of risk was as follows: 1) There is a high likelihood that dogs will act as fomites and serve as sources of Ebola virus infection for humans. 2) There is a low likelihood that a dog will be infected with Ebola virus in the currently affected areas. 3) There is a low likelihood that dogs infected with Ebola virus will act as a source of infection for humans.

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Ebola virus, hemorrhagic fever, dogs, West Africa, outbreak


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