Pet hamsters facing cull to stop monkeypox spread

Pet hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs belonging to Monkeypox patients are advised to be ‘isolated’ and, as a last resort, even culled.

European health authorities have called for the animals in contact with infected patients to be isolated in government laboratories as they’re at high risk for infection.

This week, several more cases of monkeypox were identified in the UK, taking the total to 81.

Since rodents are more suitable carriers of monkeypox than humans, the likelihood of them catching it from their owners is high.

Monkeypox patients are being asked to avoid contact with mammal pets for 21 days or until they’re free from the virus.

The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) has warned that pets could become a reservoir of monkeypox which could lead to the disease becoming endemic in Europe and the UK.

In guidance published this week, the ECDC urged people infected with monkeypox and their close contacts to avoid their pets.

Public health authorities were advised to work with veterinary authorities to ensure systems for quarantining and testing of mammalian pet animals that have been exposed or are at risk of exposure to the virus.

To date there have been no reports of monkeypox infections in animals — either domestic or wild — in the EU.

Pet rodents such as hamsters and guinea pigs, exposed to the virus, were advised to be ‘isolated in monitored facilities’ like laboratories, government facilities, kennels or animal welfare organisations.

The animals are to be tested by PCR for exposure to monkeypox before their quarantine can end.

‘Euthanasia should only be a last resort reserved to situations where testing and/or isolation are not feasible,’ said the ECDC.

Other mammal species like dogs can be isolated at home if there is availability of an enclosed outdoor space, regular veterinary checks, no access to visitors and pets don’t leave their homes.

In 2003, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 81 human monkeypox cases after close contact with pet mammals, predominantly rodents.

The cases were connected to small mammals imported from Ghana to Texas as the probable source of introduction of the virus into the US. The spread of the virus between states was connected to infected pet prairie dogs that were housed with the rodents of African origin.

When Covid-19 jumped to mink in Denmark, millions were culled to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Yesterday, the UK had ordered more than 20,000 doses of a vaccine to fight the spread of monkeypox.

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