photo: Cynthia Goldsmith, CDC http://phil.cdc.gov/phil/details.asp
As fear spreads about humans getting the Zika virus, people are also wondering if it might affect their pets – or if the virus can be spread through them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention animals “do not appear to be involved in the spread of Zika virus.”
The Zika virus was first discovered in a monkey in Uganda who had a mild fever in the 1940’s however there have been no reports of other animals becoming sick with Zika or being able to spread it to people or other animals. The CDC says “there is no evidence that Zika virus is spread to people from contact with animals.” There is also no reports of any pets or other animals becoming sick with the Zika virus.
“I think unless you’re talking about pet monkeys, which should be extremely rare cases, as far as dogs and cats, I don’t know of any information or scientific studies on that topic,” says Chris Barker, a researcher in the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at the University of California, Davis. Barker studies the epidemiology of mosquito-transmitted diseases.
There was limited evidence from one study done in Indonesia in the 1970’s that horses, cows, water buffalo, goats, ducks and bats could become infected with Zika, but there is “no evidence that they develop disease or pose a risk for Zika virus transmission to humans,” according to the CDC.
Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of a mosquito. The most common symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes. It’s usually a mild illness with symptoms lasting from a few days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Only about one in five people infected with the virus will become ill, according to the CDC.
People don’t usually die of Zika and aren’t usually sick enough to go to the hospital. Recently, the CDC described the virus as “scarier than we initially thought.” citing the virus being linked to premature birth, eye problems and other neurological conditions in babies born to moms who were infected while they were pregnant.
There have been 346 cases of the virus documented in the United States, all who were travelers from other countries. CDC Principal Deputy Director, Dr. Anne Schuchat, says, “There are no reported cases of mosquito transmitted Zika infection at this time. While we absolutely hope we don’t see widespread local transmission in the continental United States, we need the states to be ready for that.” She reminded everyone that new information is learned about the virus every day. Currently, there are no vaccines or treatments for the Zika virus.
Mosquito control, as with other issues, is the best way to defend ourselves and our pets against this virus, including removing standing water from your yard so that breeding areas are eliminated.