Questions and Answers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Q. Can West Nile virus cause illness in dogs or cats?
A. There is a published report of West Nile virus isolated from a dog in southern Africa (Botswana) in 1982. There are no published reports regarding cats, but West Nile virus was isolated from a dead cat in the New York area epidemic. However, a serosurvey of these animals in the epidemic area showed a low infection rate.
Q. Can infected dogs or cats be carriers (i.e., reservoirs) for, and transmit West Nile virus to humans?
A. West Nile virus is transmitted by infectious mosquitoes. There is no documented evidence of person-to-person, animal-to-animal, or animal-to-person transmission of West Nile virus. Veterinarians should take normal infection control precautions when caring for an animal suspected to have this or any viral infection.
Q. How do dogs or cats become infected with West Nile virus?
A. The same way humans become infected, by the bite of infectious mosquitoes. The virus is located in the mosquito's salivary glands. During blood feeding, the virus is injected into the animal. The virus then multiplies and may cause illness. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds, which may circulate the virus in their blood for a few days. It is possible that dogs and cats could become infected by eating dead infected animals such as birds, but this is unproven.
Q. Can a dog or cat infected with West Nile virus infect other dogs or cats?
A. No. There is no documented evidence that West Nile virus is transmitted from animal-to-animal.
Q. How long can a dog or cat be infected with West Nile virus ?
A. The answer is not known at this time.
Q. Should a dog or cat infected with West Nile virus be destroyed? What is the treatment for an animal infected with West Nile virus?
A. No. There is no reason to destroy an animal just because it has been infected with West Nile virus. Full recovery from the infection is likely. Treatment would be supportive and consistent with standard veterinary practices for animals infected with a viral agent.
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