A dog, an Italian greyhound, got monkeypox from his owners in France, the medical journal The Lancet reported. It’s the first known case of human-to-animal transmission of monkeypox, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.
The WHO called for people infected with monkeypox to avoid contact with humans and animals.
The Italian greyhound lives with two men in Paris. Twelve days after the men tested positive for monkeypox, the four-year-old dog, who slept in their bed, showed skin abnormalities, including cysts on his stomach and a thin anal ulcer. After tests, veterinarians concluded he had monkeypox.
Rosamund Lewis, technical lead for monkeypox at the WHO, said that experts were aware of the theoretical risk of a human-animal monkeypox jump, adding that those suffering from the disease were already advised to isolate themselves from their animals.
She also said that “waste management is critical” to lowering the risk of contaminating other animals outside the household.
When viruses jump from one specie to another, scientists worry they could mutate dangerously. Lewis said that so far, there were no reports that was happening with monkeypox. But she admitted that when the virus moves into a new setting, there is a possibility that it “will develop differently and mutate differently”.
Michael Ryan, WHO emergencies director, said that the more dangerous situation is when the virus moves into a whole population of animals: “It is through the process of one animal infecting the next and the next and the next that you see rapid evolution of the virus.”
But with pets, there’s less concern. “I don’t expect the virus to evolve any more quickly in one single dog than in one single human,” Ryan said.
Monkeypox is a virus that can cause symptoms including a bumpy rash, pain and fever. It was given the name monkeypox because it was first detected in laboratory monkeys.
There’s no link to monkeys carrying the virus, and since the name has caused people to poison and kill monkeys in Brazil out of fear of the disease, the WHO is looking into a new, more scientific, name for the virus.
In 1970, the disease was first discovered in humans, with the spread since then mainly limited to some African countries. But in May, monkeypox began spreading rapidly worldwide.