The men, who live together and have a non-exclusive relationship, were diagnosed with monkey pox in a hospital in Paris in early June. Twelve days after their symptoms started, their 4-year-old Italian Greyhound also started showing symptoms, according to a report published last week in the journal The Lancet.
The dog developed lesions and tested positive for the same type of monkey pox as one of the owners.
According to the report, the men said they had allowed their dog to sleep in their bed with them and made sure to keep their pet away from other animals or people from the onset of their own symptoms — before the dog’s symptoms started.
“To the best of our knowledge, the kinetics of symptom onset in both patients and subsequently in their dogs suggest human-to-canine monkeypox virus transmission,” the report authors wrote. “Given the skin and mucosal lesions of the dog and the positive monkeypox virus PCR results from anal and oral swabs, we presume genuine canine distemper, not a simple carrier of the virus through close contact with humans or airborne transmission (or both). “
The authors suggested the study should spark debate about whether pets should be isolated from their owners if they have monkey pox, and they called for further research.
New, but not surprising information, says WHO
Lewis said only animal-to-human transmission of the virus had previously been reported, citing an outbreak of monkeypox in the US in which people were infected with the virus through prairie dogs.
“This is the first incident we learn about where there is human-to-animal transmission,” Lewis said at a Washington Post Live event Monday. “This has not been reported before, nor has it been reported that dogs have been previously infected.
“On a number of levels, this is new information,” she said. “It’s not surprising information, and it’s something we’re watching for.”
She noted that experts within WHO are working with partners such as the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization to address the problem.
“The message that has been given so far is that pets should be isolated from the family members who may be infected,” she said. “This was an example of a precautionary approach, precautionary messages, because we didn’t have the information that this had ever happened before, it hadn’t been reported before, but it was a reasonable, cautious message to give. And now we have the first incident where this actually took place.”
Lewis said it is not clear whether the infected dog can transmit the virus back to humans. But sometimes, even if they don’t have all the evidence, public health professionals need to come up with the most useful messages that help people estimate their level of risk.
“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,” she said.
CDC says infected people should stay away from animals
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated their page on monkey pox in animals to recognize that dogs can be infected with the virus.
“We are still learning which animal species can get monkeypox,” the agency said. “While we don’t know whether reptiles, amphibians or birds can get monkey pox, it’s unlikely that these animals are not infected with other orthopox viruses.”
The CDC also notes that infected animals can spread the virus to humans, and it is “possible that people who are infected can spread Monkeypox virus to animals through close contact, including petting, hugging, cuddling, kissing, licking, sharing sleeping quarters, and sharing food.”
The agency advises people with monkey pox to avoid contact with animals, including their pets.
Pets that have had close contact with someone with monkeypox symptoms should be kept at home and away from other animals and people for 21 days after the most recent contact, the CDC said. Infected people should not be near their exposed pet; they should ask someone else in the house to take care of it if possible.
If the infected person and pet have not been in close contact after symptoms began, the CDC recommends asking someone who lives elsewhere to care for the animal until there is full recovery from the virus.