August 19, 2022

Monkeypox can infect pets, other animals, health experts warn

More than 6,000 monkeypox cases reported globally as WHO calls for emergency meeting

…1st case of human-to-dog infection documented

By Sola Ogundipe

SINCE the first case of a pet dog getting monkeypox infection from its owners was documented, precautions have intensified to protect animals from the increase in reverse spillover of the disease back into animals.

Although the current outbreak of monkeypox is driven by human-to-human contact, a pet  dog contracted monkeypox from its infected owners, according to evidence published in The Lancet.

Monkeypox  a zoonotic virus, meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. This was the first known case of a pet dog contracting the monkeypox virus via human transmission.

Monkeypox is officially a public health emergency, but so far, the current  outbreak has consisted of human-to-human transmission, but a new study published in The Lancet found that human-to-animal transmission has also occurred.

In the study, researchers reported monkeypox infection in two men living together in France. The men arrived at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital on June 10 with symptoms of monkeypox, including rashes, headaches, and fevers.

The dog, an Italian greyhound, appeared to have scabs and lesions like those seen in monkeypox.

Using DNA analysis, medical workers found that the virus infecting the dog matched the monkeypox virus found in one of its owners.

Based on their findings, the researchers called for further investigation into potential secondary transmission of monkeypox via pets. “Our findings should prompt debate on the need to isolate pets from monkeypox virus-positive individuals. 

This is the first incident that we’re learning about where there is human-to-animal transmission,” said Rosamund Lewis, the World Health Organisation’s lead on monkeypox.

“So, on a number of levels, this is new information. It’s not surprising information, and it’s something that we’ve been on the watch out for.”

How to protect your pets from monkeypox

Based on the study’s findings, the Centres for Diseases Control & Prevention, CDC, updated its guidance on monkeypox to include dogs among the animals that can be infected by the virus.

The agency now lists 10 animals that can possibly contract monkeypox, including hedgehogs and domestic rabbits.

According to the CDC guidance: “Infected animals can spread monkeypox virus to people, and it is possible that people who are infected can spread monkeypox virus to animals through close contact.”

Health experts say that the risk of transmitting monkeypox to pets is low, but they still recommend that people who are infected take precautions to prevent potential spread.

To reduce the risk of viral transmission, avoid close contact with your pets, including petting, cuddling, sharing sleeping areas, and sharing food, if you are infected.

Pets who have had close contact with an infected individual should be isolated from other people and animals for 21 days and taken care of by another member of the household if possible.

If infected individuals need to care for their pets, they should wash their hands before and after caring for them, cover any rashes with long sleeves and pants, and wear gloves and a mask during close interactions.

In addition, it is recommended that  infected individuals avoid directly handling a pet’s food, toys, or bedding to avoid potentially contaminating the surfaces.

Common symptoms to watch for include: lethargy

lack of appetite, coughing, nasal secretions or crust, bloating, fever, pimple- or blister-like skin rashes, etc.

If symptoms appear within 21 days of a pet being exposed to the virus, it is recommended that a veterinarian be contacted to get the pet professionally assessed.

However, it is unlikely that monkeypox had spread to domesticated animals.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Centre for Health Security and an infectious disease expert, says monkeypox is primarily a zoonotic infection that arises from animals.

Wild animals  including rodents and primates, are known to get infected with monkeypox in countries where monkeypox is endemic.

Monkeypox has been detected in captive primates in Europe and prairie dogs in the United States after being exposed to imported animals that were infected.

“We know that monkeypox can infect a variety of animals so it is not surprising,” Adalja said.

If you develop monkeypox, keep your distance from your dog or cat. More research is needed to understand how common this type of transmission is along with the prognosis in dogs.