The first case of human-to-animal transmission of monkeypox has been reported in a dog, according to research published in the medical journal The Lancet on August 10. Following the news, the United States public health agency, the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, has updated its prevention recommendations on infected persons having pets at home.
Detected in a Paris hospital, the infected dog showed symptoms such as lesions on the skin, specifically “mucocutaneous lesions, including abdomen pustules and a thin anal ulceration”. It is unclear right now if dogs can further spread the disease to other dogs or humans.
In India, eight cases of monkeypox have been reported so far. Globally, monkeypox cases have topped 35,000 since May this year, when the disease was first reported outside its endemic areas of a few countries of Central and West Africa. The WHO has said at present, a majority of the cases being reported are from Europe and the Americas.
According to The Lancet, the dog would sleep on the same bed as two men who were non-exclusive sexual partners and shared the household together. The men had been detected with monkeypox in late May this year after they showed symptoms of fever, headaches, and anal ulcerations.
Around 12 days later, the dog began showing symptoms, and was soon tested. The men said they had taken care to prevent their dog from contact with other pets or humans since the onset of their own symptoms.
While it has not been understood yet how exactly the transmission happened in this case, among humans monkeypox spreads through close contact with anyone infected with the virus, through infectious rashes and bodily fluids. The vast majority of cases in the current outbreak have been concentrated among men having sex with men (MSM). Advisories issued by governments and health agencies have cautioned against the sharing of bed linen or clothes with infected persons.
In endemic countries, only wild animals (rodents and primates) have been found to carry the monkeypox virus, The Lancet report said. Infection among domesticated animals, such as dogs and cats, had not been reported till now.
Given only one case has been reported so far, The Lancet has called for further investigation on secondary transmissions via pets.
However, the CDC has suggested certain precautions, saying it is possible that people who are infected can spread the monkeypox virus to animals through close contact — petting, cuddling, hugging, kissing, licking, sharing sleeping areas, and sharing food. Those who have monkeypox symptoms or have recently tested positive need to avoid close contact. If the pet has not been in close proximity to the owners, they can be shifted to another place until the recovery happens, or around 21 days.
“After the person with monkeypox is recovered, disinfect your home before bringing healthy animals back”, said the CDC, adding that sanitisers and other disinfectants should not be used on pets. Pets showing symptoms should be tested, and people around the pet need to wear personal protective equipment or long-sleeved clothing to avoid exposure. Frequent hand washing is also recommended when handling the pet.