WATCH ABOVE: Bentley, the dog of a medical worker diagnosed with Ebola, is in a safe place tonight and in the care of the City of Dallas. Dallas Animal Services will oversee Bentley’s care over the next few weeks while he is monitored for Ebola.
TORONTO – While a Spanish nurse’s dog was euthanized last week after its owner contracted Ebola, Texas officials say they’re against killing the pet dog of a U.S. nurse who is also infected with the deadly disease.
Instead, Bentley – a fluffy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – will be kept in isolation at an undisclosed location where he’ll be cared for. His owner, 26-year-old nurse Nina Pham, turned up in hospital on the weekend with a fever after treating a Liberian man who fell ill after arriving in Texas. It’s still unclear how the transmission occurred.
Pham is the first patient to contract the disease on U.S. soil.
“This is a very brave person who put herself at risk to do something good for society, and is now ill,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told U.S. media outlets.
While the CDC wouldn’t identify its patient, it was Pham’s family who confirmed her identity. She’s now in hospital in “clinically stable” condition.
Last week, despite public outcry and protests, Spanish officials euthanized Excalibur – a pet dog that came into contact with a nurse who contracted Ebola in Madrid, Spain.
Excalibur belonged to Teresa Romero, a Spanish nursing assistant who contracted the disease from a missionary priest who died.
READ MORE: Ebola nurse’s dog euthanized in Spain
Officials at the Madrid Department of Health obtained a court order last Tuesday to put down the dog as protesters gathered in the city to oppose the decision. Critics called the move an “overreaction.”
So far, Texas officials haven’t come to the same decision. Instead, Bentley was moved to Dallas’ Animal Services and Adoption Center where he’ll be closely monitored and isolated from other animals.
“He is at an undisclosed location, away from homes, apartments and other animals,” a city spokeswoman, Sana Syed, told NBC News.
Safety protocols are in place to dispose of any feces or potentially contaminated items in Pham’s apartment. Bentley will also be looked after by a veterinarian daily.
“The dog’s very important to the patient and we want it to be safe,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told USA Today. There appears to be no plan to euthanize the dog.
The trouble is, it’s unclear how long Bentley will need to be monitored. In humans, the longest incubation time is 21 days. It’s also unknown how Ebola would present in dogs, if it does.
Monkeys, bats and other animals can spread the disease. There’s limited information on if and how dogs could transmit the disease to humans. It’s never been documented to have passed from humans to dogs, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it wants to “look at all possibilities.”
At least one major study suggests that dogs can contract Ebola. Researchers tested dogs during the 2001 Ebola outbreak in Gabon after seeing the canines eat infected dead animals. Of the 337 dogs tested, up to 25 per cent showed antibodies to Ebola, a sign that they were infected or at least exposed to the virus.
It’s unclear what the risk is to humans, though. Lab experiments in other animals suggest their urine, saliva and stool might contain the virus. That could mean that people could catch it from a dog biting them, for example.
– With files from Nicole Mortillaro and the Associated Press