CDC Issues Alert Over Monkeypox in Animals

CDC Issues Alert Over Monkeypox in Animals

Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can spread between animals and people, and is caused by Monkeypox virus, an Orthopoxvirus. While the animal reservoir is unknown, small mammals (e.g. rope and sun squirrels, giant-pouched rats, African dormice) are thought to maintain the virus in the environments of West and Central Africa. People can get infected with the virus through direct contact with infected animals, often while hunting, trapping, and processing infected animals or the infected body parts and fluids of animals. Small mammals can carry the virus, sometimes without apparent symptoms, while non-human primates can get sick with monkeypox and have signs of disease like humans. In 2003, an outbreak of monkeypox in domesticated prairie dogs occurred after they shared bedding and caging with a shipment of infected small mammals from West Africa. This led to 47 human cases in 6 states in the United States. Instances of animal-to-animal and animal-to-person spread, such as the 2003 outbreak, demonstrate the need to reduce the risk of secondary infections to and from animals by isolating infected people as well as exposed and infected animals.  

What we know about monkeypox in animals

  • Monkeypox virus can infect a wide range of mammal species, including monkeys, anteaters, hedgehogs, prairie dogs, squirrels, shrews and dogs.
  • There has been a single report of sick people transmitting Monkeypox virus to animals (a dog).
  • We are still learning which species of animals can get monkeypox. While we do not know if reptiles, amphibians, or birds can get monkeypox, it is unlikely since these animals have not been found to be infected with other orthopoxviruses.
  • Not all animals may have a rash when they have monkeypox.
  • Infected animals can spread Monkeypox virus to people, and it is possible that people who are infected can spread Monkeypox virus to animals through close contact, including petting, cuddling, hugging, kissing, licking, sharing sleeping areas, and sharing food.
  • Monkeypox virus can be found in the rash caused by monkeypox (scabs, crusts, fluids) and infected bodily fluids, including respiratory secretions, and potentially in urine and feces.

Monkeypox in pets and other animals

We are still learning about which mammals are susceptible to infection. We should assume any mammal can be infected with Monkeypox virus. The table shows which animals can be infected with Monkeypox virus or other closely related orthopoxviruses.

See the CDC’s table here.

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