Bentley, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel owned Nina Pham, the nurse infected with the Ebola virus after caring for the recently deceased Thomas Eric Duncan, has been quarantined but there are no plans, thankfully, to euthanize him.  That is good news and in stark comparison to the draconian measures taken by officials in Spain, who euthanized Excalibur, the dog owned by the infected health care worker there, despite protests from the public, and in the absence of clinical signs of infection in the dog.

Officials reported that Bentley will be properly cared for and acknowledged his importance to Pham.

Bentley has been moved to another location and will be quarantined for 21 days, where he will be examined by veterinarians wearing protective gear even though transmission from dogs to humans, while theoretically possible, has not been documented.

As reported by Dr. Christine Hoang, assistant director of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s scientific activities division:

“We have no evidence that domestic animals — whether dogs or cats and so forth — are able to transmit the virus to humans.”

Copyright: dorazett / 123RF Stock Photo

The most important rule to consider before quarantining an animal, or human, is when and how that quarantine will be lifted.  Hopefully that was considered before Bentley’s quarantine was imposed, and hopefully his release is not contingent on any negative blood work that may prove he was exposed to Ebola-rather, tests should identify if he is able to transmit the virus, not simply that he was exposed.

What remains unanswered is exactly how Pham became infected, since she reportedly was following the biosecurity protocols designed to protect workers from infection.

Protective gear only works when they are properly used.

Both the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have recently described the difficulties in removing the protective gear health care workers wear without contaminating themselves or others.

When I was certified by the EPA in Hazardous Materials Incident Response Operations, donning and doffing (putting on and removing) protective gear was a fundamental aspect of the training.  To become certified I had to prove that I could don and doff equipment without contaminating myself.  It is easier said than done, though I was successful.  It is easy to understand how someone could make a mistake particularly when they do not practice on a regular basis.

The slightest mistake could lead to contamination.

That only means training of health care professionals should be ramped up . . .now.

“Friday, the New Jersey Health Commissioner sent a letter to acute care hospitals in the Garden State asking them to conduct drills by Oct. 17 — and get ready for the possibility that a patient with Ebola will come through the door.”

Following the 9-11 and anthrax attacks, disaster preparedness and training has become a way of life in New Jersey.  State, federal, and local agencies prepared in earnest for the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease and the highly pathogenic form of H5N1-Avian Influenza virus into the country.  Fortunately, that did not occur.  But Sandy did.

Now the State is well-positioned to respond, if needed, to people (or pets) exposed to or infected with the Ebola virus.  When it comes to practicing donning and doffing protective gear, more drilling and training is a good thing.