Bentley, Nina Pham’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, has not only been quarantined as a result of Pharm’s infection with the Ebola-virus, he has apparently also been tested for the virus.  Fortunately, he has tested negative to date.  More importantly, the testing appears to be targeted at identifying the virus in Bentley’s urine and feces, and not testing for antibodies to the virus.  This distinction may be not readily apparent, except to animal health officials and other public health officials, who routinely interpret laboratory results.  Testing for antibodies is far less reliable than testing for the virus itself.

The difference between action taken on laboratory evidence of a virus identified in an animal versus evidence of antibodies to such a virus is particularly important where the tests being performed have not yet been certified.  In addition, fFalse positive or negative test results make action taken on such test results even more precarious, particularly if a dog were to test positive for antibodies in an uncertified test in the absence of clinical signs of disease.

Fortunately, some of the very best animal health officials are involved in Bentley’s quarantine and testing, including officials from the Texas Animal Health Commission, Texas A&M University and the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control.  So laboratory test results will be adequately scrutinized.

As reported by the Dallas News Dallas City Hall “Bentley will be monitored for a full 21-day period, similar to people exposed to the Ebola virus.”

Texas A&M University and The College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences provided the following comments about Bentley and the Ebola virus:

  • This is the first Ebola exposed dog in the US.
  • We are concerned about people and animals. This is a timely example of      One Health, which is the inextricable link between animal, human, and      environmental health – One Health, One Medicine, One World, One Team.
  • We know that people are concerned about their animals; in fact, they      will put themselves at risk for their animals. It is critical in preparing      for and dealing with Ebola virus that animals and people are considered.
  • We actively support the Governor’s      Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, led by Dr. Brett Giroir, CEO of Texas A&M University Health      Science Center. The Task Force has already emphasized the need to work      with the College of Veterinary Medicine& Biomedical Sciences on this      important topic.
  • People should not be reluctant to report early signs of Ebola in order      to protect their pets. They should feel secure that they will not be      putting their pets at risk by self-reporting.

In the meantime, in both New York and New Jersey people returning from the affected African countries will be quarantined or actively monitored under certain circumstances.  According to a New Jersey press release:

“There will also be a mandatory quarantine for any individual who had direct contact with an individual infected with the Ebola virus while in one of the three West African nations (Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea), including any medical personnel having performed medical services to individuals infected with the Ebola virus. Additionally, all individuals with travel history to the affected regions of West Africa, with no direct contact with an infected person, will be actively monitored by public health officials and, if necessary, quarantined, depending on the facts and circumstances of their particular situation.”

It is challenging to protect the rights of individuals when also trying to protect the public from exposure to a devastatingly fatal disease, like Ebola.  Legal challenges to New York and New Jersey’s proposed quarantines are expected.  Unlike quarantines of animals, quarantines of humans have not been imposed in this fashion in the U.S. since at least the last century.

The CDC explains the differences and reasons for isolation and quarantine:

“Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.

Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

In addition to serving as medical functions, isolation and quarantine also are ‘police power’ functions, derived from the right of the state to take action affecting individuals for the benefit of society.”

More about the quarantine of people will certainly be forthcoming.