MADRID - A dog named Excalibur that belonged to an Ebola-infected nurse was euthanized Wednesday as protesters and animal rights activists surrounded the Madrid home of the nurse and her husband. A online petition calling for the dog's life to be spared had drawn hundreds of thousands of signatures.
The furor came amid questions about whether dogs can get and transmit the disease.
In the United States, a spokesman for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Thomas Skinner, said Wednesday that studies had shown that dogs can have an immune response to Ebola, meaning that they can become infected. But he said there had been no reports of dogs or cats developing Ebola symptoms or passing the disease to other animals or to people.
The death of Excalibur, a 12-year-old rescued dog, was confirmed to reporters by Javier Rodriguez, an official from Madrid's regional government, and the body is expected to be cremated.
The nurse's husband had pleaded publicly with officials in Madrid to change their minds about putting down the dog. He told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo that there was no indication that Excalibur had been infected with Ebola. The nurse has been identified as Maria Teresa Romero Ramos.
Skinner said the disease centers were recommending that Ebola patients with dogs or cats at home "evaluate the animal's risk of exposure," meaning they should assess how likely it is that the animal has ingested bodily fluids like blood, vomit or feces from the patient. If the animal has been exposed, it should be monitored for 21 days, the incubation period for the disease.
Skinner said the CDC was working with the American Veterinary Medical Association to study the issue and develop guidance for pets in the United States.
In a 2005 study of dogs in Gabon done after an Ebola outbreak in 2001-02, researchers found that dogs can be infected with the virus but that they show no symptoms. The researchers said the possibility that pet dogs could become infected and transmit the virus to humans could not be ruled out.