Evidence of human spread to dogs, published in the Lancet, could lead to further guidance on how pets should be cared for when in a living space with an infected person, Rosamund Lewis, the World Health Organization’s lead on monkey pox, told The Washington Post Monday.
Monkeypox usually spreads from person to person through direct contact with contagious skin rashes, scabs, or bodily fluids. It can also be transmitted through respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, hugging, or sex.
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According to the Lancet report, the possible case of human-to-dog transmission was discovered in a 4-year-old Italian Greyhound 12 days after owners developed symptoms of monkey pox.
The dog had lesions on his skin and mucous membranes, pustules on his abdomen and a thin anal ulcer. Medical personnel linked one of the dog owners’ infections to the infection detected in the animal.
Investigators said the dog belonged to two men who were in a non-exclusive, cohabiting relationship. One of the partners is a 44-year-old man and his partner is a 27-year-old man, the report said.
The couple reported letting their dog sleep in their bed with them and preventing their pet from coming into contact with other people and pets based on the onset of their own symptoms.
Monkeypox rampages through communities of men who have sex with men, raising fear and anxiety in cities with many gay and bisexual men, prompting the WHO to advise those groups to limit sexual partners to reduce the risk of exposure.
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About 99 percent of monkey pox cases worldwide are found in men, and 98 percent of those cases involve men who have sex with men, Lewis said Monday, shortly after the Lancet report surfaced.
Lewis also spoke about the transmission of the monkeypox virus between humans and animals and said there have been cases of people getting the virus from newly acquired pets.
“This is the first incident we learn about where there is human-to-animal transmission,” she said of the Lancet report’s findings. “So on a number of levels this is new information. It’s not surprising information, and it’s something we’re watching for.”
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In the report, researchers called for further investigation into secondary transmissions through pets.
“Our findings should spark a debate about the need to isolate pets from individuals who are positive for monkeypox virus,” they said.
Lewis said reports have encouraged people to isolate their pets from family members who may be infected with monkey pox — a precautionary approach as scientists continue to study the spread of the virus, she said.
“So again, we don’t know if that dog can transmit the infection to someone else, for example,” she said. “This is an example where most pets are not at risk. It can only be those who are actually in the household of someone who is infected.”