How to protect your pets from monkeypox after 1st-known case of human-to-pet transmission

First reported case of it spreading to a household pet was discovered in France.

August 16, 2022, 7:00 PM

Monkeypox and related viruses are known for their ability to transmit between humans and animals, but with increasing global spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that household pets may be at risk after a dog in France apparently contracted monkeypox from its owners in July, according to a report published in The Lancet journal.

This is the first reported case of human-to-pet transmission of monkeypox.

"We are still learning what different animal species may be susceptible to infection, and this new case report is important because it shows that dogs are able to get the disease," Dr. Meghan Davis, associate professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told ABC News. The CDC says it's not clear if other animals, like cats, can develop monkeypox, but recommends that people sick with monkeypox take precautions around all animals to be safe.

Monkeypox cases continue to climb across the globe and in the United States, where more than 12,000 Americans have been diagnosed.

For anyone recovering at home, the CDC said it's important to stay away from other household members -- including pets -- or take steps to reduce the risk of household transmission if isolating away isn't possible.

Isolate away from pets if possible

Monkeypox transmission happens during close contact. With pets, this could be through cuddling, hugging, kissing, licking and sharing sleeping areas or food.

If you are diagnosed with monkeypox and have not yet exposed your pet -- meaning you haven't been in contact with the pet since your symptoms developed -- try to find a friend or a neighbor to care for your pet. Your isolation period may last two to four weeks. Once your skin lesions are healed, clean and disinfect your home, including washing your bedding, before bringing your pet back home.

Understandably, this may not be possible for everyone.

Hand hygiene and physical distancing can still help

If your pet stays with you while you are isolated, you can still take steps to reduce their risk of transmitting monkeypox.

"Keep your pets, just keep your distance -- and don't let your pet share your bed -- if you are diagnosed with or suspect you have monkeypox," Davis said.

PHOTO: A woman plays with a dog at sunset, Nov. 6, 2021, at a park in Kansas City, Mo.
A woman plays with a dog at sunset, Nov. 6, 2021, at a park in Kansas City, Mo.
Charlie Riedel/AP, FILE

Echoing guidance given when isolating at home with COVID-19, wash your hands every time you touch your pet, wear a mask and try to keep your skin lesions covered. Maintain your distance and don't let your pet get into contaminated clothes, towels or sheets.

"Pets that had close contact with a symptomatic person with monkeypox should be kept at home and away from other animals and people for 21 days after the most recent contact," according to CDC guidance.

Call your vet and try to get your pet tested for monkeypox if your pet shows signs of monkeypox infection after exposure

Though we don't understand all the symptoms of monkeypox in animals, symptoms could look like lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, fever and pimple-like or blister-like rashes.

If one pet gets sick, try to keep them separate from other pets or people at home -- especially from anyone in the household who is pregnant, immune compromised or a child.

Keep caring for your pet, do not abandon or euthanize your pet

Monkeypox exposure or diagnosis is not a reason to consider abandoning or euthanizing your pet, the CDC said.

The CDC also recommends that people should not put a mask on their pets, or clean or bathe their pets with chemical disinfectants such as alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or hand sanitizer. Wash your hands often and clean any contaminated bedding or other pet materials following CDC guidance if your pet gets monkeypox.

Quickly dispose of the pet's waste -- do not just leave it on the ground or in the backyard -- using a sealed, dedicated trash can, and contact your local public health department for further details on how to handle the contaminated waste.

Dr. Jade A Cobern, board-eligible in pediatrics, is a part of the ABC News Medical Unit and a general preventive medicine resident at Johns Hopkins.

ABC News' Sony Salzman and Arielle Mitropoulos contributed to this report.

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