In Paris, a four-year-old greyhound was infected with the monkey pox virus, it was the first. According to the researchers, twelve days after showing the wounds full of pus to its masters, the animal will also be covered with suspicious blisters. Thanks to screening tests, we now know that one of the two men and the dog were infected with the same strain of smallpox.
In July, this virus, which is transmitted through physical contact, was declared a “public health emergency of international concern” (USSPI). There are currently 44,503 cases in 96 different countries and territories.
Given the bond we have with our pets, “this is not a surprise,” according to Colin Parrish, a professor of veterinary virology at Cornell University and an expert on novel canine viruses. These are part of the theoretical risks, as we pet and kiss our dogs, hold them in our laps, and share food with them. It is common for them to lick us and sleep with us, as the greyhound in question did, Colin Parrish pointed out.
Although the dog has recovered, this case has raised concerns among pet owners who wonder if their dog or cat can carry the virus to them and fear for their health.
According to Colin Parrish, these fears are largely unfounded. “Don’t exaggerate. Don’t be fooled. The risk is very low. With thousands of human infections recorded, if the dogs had actually been exposed, “we would have seen a lot of cases by now,” he said. The documented case is rare, making him say it’s safe to take your dog to the park or pet daycare.
CAN DOGS TRANSMIT VIRUSES?
As Jeff Doty, head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) One Health team tasked with fighting monkeypox, relatively little is known about monkeypox in animals, companies such as dogs and cats .
The study listing the greyhound case provides few details about the animal’s symptoms or the severity of its illness. However, the CDC has compiled a list of symptoms that dogs may show: lethargy, refusal to feed, runny nose or eyes, rash with blisters.
It is not yet known whether dogs infected with the virus are likely to pass it on to other dogs, wildlife, or pass it back to humans. According to Jeff Doty, it depends on how much virus they spread and how they do it.
It is not yet known whether dogs or other species are able to breed and then spread the virus in large enough numbers to cause disease, he recalled. Although researchers have found that some animals such as prairie dogs appear to be able to spread monkeypox through nasal secretions and feces, “we just don’t know if that’s the case with dogs.”
In any case, Colin Parrish points out, if you rub the shoulders of a dog with wounds, it is possible to be contaminated but “the most important risk remains human-to-human contact”.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR PET?
Although the number of cases continues to rise, “the majority of the general population is not at risk of contracting monkeypox”, Mike Ryan, executive director of the Health Emergencies Program of the World Health Organization, said. (WHO), in a press conference last week. And add that “the animals and our companions do not currently pose a danger to humans”.
In fact, it’s the opposite: humans are more dangerous than animals. Public health agencies warn those infected with monkeypox should avoid contact with pets, livestock and wildlife in general.
In the event that a pet is not exposed, the CDC recommends that the symptomatic person leave it with family members or other people while it recovers and disinfect the home before the animal returns. . If this is not possible, the agency recommends isolating the animal and keeping it in quarantine for 21 days.
Some people sometimes have no choice but to keep their pets with them. “Normal, common-sense precautions are about enough,” says Colin Parrish. He said it’s important to wear clothing that covers the rash, wash your hands, use hydroalcoholic gel, wear gloves and a mask if they’re available, and keep them away from contaminated linens and towels. It is important to take care of your garbage so that the virus does not spread to animals in the neighborhood that may consume the garbage.
The CDC warns against the temptation to bathe your pet in disinfectants, alcohol, hydroalcoholic gel or any other chemicals that can poison it.
If you are unlucky enough to contract monkeypox and your pet shows any lesions or two or more symptoms within twenty-one days of exposure, the CDC advises referral to your veterinarian.
Vigilance is key. There are effective human vaccines and “we should try to control and eliminate the virus in humans if we are allowed”, according to Colin Parrish. But there is no qualified vaccine available for dogs and cats.
“We have to be careful,” Mike Ryan warned. As more viruses spread, “more can evolve”.
Like about 60% of human diseases, monkeypox is zoonotic: it originates in the animal world and spreads to humans. The disease was named in 1958 after it was discovered in laboratory monkeys living in captivity in Denmark. However, it is a rodent virus.
The primary animal reservoir of monkeypox remains an enigma. There may be many. Public health experts know, however, that small rodents (squirrels of the genera Funisciurus and Heliosciurussavannah cricetomas and African dormice) are carriers of the virus in the tropical forests of Central and West Africa where it is endemic.
The first human case of monkeypox was diagnosed in 1970, twelve years after its discovery. For decades, infections likely occurred through “spillover”; the virus is transmitted to humans when they handle infected animals by hunting, slaughtering or eating them.
In 2010, reports of human-to-human transmission began to emerge. And in 2017, a localized outbreak occurred in Nigeria. The virus is now present in populations around the world.
While the risk to dogs and cats appears to be low, information about the types of animals susceptible to the disease is limited.
Squirrels, monkeys, great apes and some types of mice and rats can be infected, as well as hedgehogs, shrews, chinchillas and other small mammals. As for the cows, the question remains unanswered. There is a cousin of monkeypox (cowpox) that can infect cattle. However, we do not yet know if there is a risk for cats, gerbils, rabbits, hamsters, raccoons, skunks, and other species…
There is great concern about possible contamination of American rat populations, which often live in large social groups. Prairie dog colonies in the American West are part of this list. In 2003, a shipment of 800 small mammals imported to Texas from Ghana for sale introduced monkeypox to the United States. Prairie dogs kept next to them caught the virus and then infected 47 people who came to buy them, who touched them, were bitten by them or were in the same room.
Some laboratory studies, however, bring good news. In fact, according to Jeff Doty, the genre’s ubiquitous city rats Rattus that plagued cities around the world appear to develop immunity to monkeypox just days after birth.
As human cases increase, public health specialists are on alert. According to Andrea McCollum, epidemiologist with the CDC’s 2022 Monkeypox Outbreak Response initiative, reversing human-to-animal transmission could create new endemic reservoirs and entirely new chains of transmission.
“What we don’t want to happen, warns Mike Ryan, is a disease that crosses the species barrier. This could potentially make monkeypox impossible to eradicate.
“Adapting to a new host allows a virus to evolve, with the ability to grow and mutate,” said Rosamund Lewis, WHO’s monkeypox technical director. In other words, the virus can become more or less infectious, weakened or become more virulent.
“We know that genetic changes are happening, Jeff Doty revealed, but we don’t know what [qu’ils] can mean related to the propensity or ability of the virus to infect different types of animals. »
“After all, when zoonotic viruses infect a new species, they often find themselves in a bad place,” said Sylvie Briand, who oversees the global infectious disease WHO risk preparedness.