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Airborne Zika Virus: Are Pets At Risk?

zika virus and pets

Introduction

As pet owners, we all want to do what’s best for our animals to keep them happy and healthy. This is one of the reasons we protect them from the transmission of unwanted, often life-threatening conditions, like heartworm, which we all know is spread by mosquitoes. Even birds can carry a long list of diseases that are dangerous to both pets and humans.

With continued headlines about the Zika virus, another disease spread by mosquitoes, do these flying pests pose any type of realistic threat to our pets from this ailment? According to recent reports from the CDC, (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention), there’s no evidence to suggest that any domesticated animals have either been infected or are spreading the virus.

Similar to the AIDS epidemic that began to surface in the early-eighties here in the US, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions circulating about the spread of this disease. Even the title of this article suggests that Zika is an “airborne” illness, but only in the sense that it’s being spread by flying insects and can’t be caught through casual contact.

Again, very much like HIV, the only way you can contract this disease is through blood-related contact, such as:

  • From a blood transfusion
  • It being passed from an infected pregnant mother to her unborn child
  • Through intimate sexual contact
  • From a mosquito bite as mentioned previously

Although it’s hardly worth mentioning, but there was one report (as of June 15, 2016) of transmission and exposure to the Zika virus through a laboratory-related incident.

 

Monkey See – Monkey Don’t

Again, with more similarities to the AIDS epidemic, the HIV virus was first discovered in a primate on the African continent, as was Zika. Some are concerned about the spread of the disease from monkey to monkey or even ape to ape, but then again, these worries are truly unfounded. So many circumstances would have to exist in order for this to be a factor, so consider the facts:

  • All monkeys and apes imported into the US are held in a mandatory quarantine of 30 days
  • These primates are unable to transmit the disease to others without the intervention of mosquitoes
  • Held indoors during this period, in screened enclosures, the possibility of them coming into contact with these insects is extremely low

The incubation period of the Zika virus is 14-days, so even if a primate happened to enter into our country while carrying this disease, they would have built up the necessary antibodies to prevent further transmission during their required incubation period.

 

The Real Threat

Many don’t know that people affected with this disease often don’t even know they’ve been infected. Symptoms are mild and include a slight fever, headache, rash, conjunctivitis (red eyes), minor muscle aches and pains, which usually subside without further incident in about a week or two. Those with compromised immune systems and rare diseases, could be at risk for further complications.

The real problems come with pregnant mothers who are infected by the disease and are passing it on to their newborns. Research has shown they can pass on birth defects and other issues to their unborn children and since symptoms are often mild, some are mothers are unaware they have the disease and unknowingly put their children at risk for infection.

The bottom line here is, don’t let innuendo, misinformation, half-truths and myths propel us as pet owners to becoming alarmed without knowing all the facts. The risk of exposure to this mild disease is minimal, especially through casual contact with our beloved animals.

 

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