Risk related to household pets in contact with Ebola cases in humans
In response to a request from the European Commission to provide advice on risks related to pets having been in contact with people infected with Ebola virus, EFSA and ECDC have jointly prepared a rapid assessment. The assessment addresses three questions: (i) the probability of a pet being in contact with a human Ebola virus disease case; (ii) the probability of a pet being exposed to Ebola virus; and (iii) the probability of a pet infected or contaminated with Ebola virus being capable of transmitting the virus to an uninfected human. This assessment covers dogs and cats as they are the most common pets in Europe. The situation in Europe is different from the one in Western Africa, the area affected by the current Ebola virus (EBOV) epidemic. In Europe, situations where a pet becomes infected through contact with an infected human are likely to bevery rare. In the event of contact with an infected human, the probability of a pet becoming infected, or to act as a fomite, can range from very low to high. However, this probability is associated with high uncertainty. In addition, there is high uncertainty about viraemia and virus excretion in pets. The probability of human exposure to the virus through contact with exposed pets is difficult to assess and may range from very low to high depending on the specific circumstances. It is recommended that risk be assessed jointly by veterinary and public health authorities using a case-by-case approach. In the absence of information about possible EBOV infection in pets and the potential for onward transmission, full precautionary measures should be taken when handling pets of persons infected with EBOV. Although it should not be considered a priority during outbreaks, sharing any information that could help to improve our understanding of EBOV in pets and other domestic animals is important for national and international stakeholders.