Officials in Dallas, Unlike Madrid, Won’t Kill an Ebola Patient’s Dog

Basing policy and actions on fear over Ebola means that more people -- and dogs -- will die.


One of the biggest stories in the news right now is that for the first time, someone has contracted Ebola within the United States. A Dallas health worker who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the only person to die of the disease in the United States, has tested positive for Ebola, and is under care.

There is little good news to be found in that paragraph, but here’s one thing: Unlike the recent case in Spain, authorities are not going to kill the health worker’s dog. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told USA Today, “The dog’s very important to the patient, and we want it to be safe.”

This is good news, and not only for dog lovers. It’s good news because it shows that the authorities in Dallas are making a deliberate attempt not to panic while faced with what could be a very scary situation. As scary as the situation is, it will only become worse if the authorities react because of fear.

I’m old enough to remember when a diagnosis of AIDS meant that someone would be dead within a few months or a year. It brought out the worst in our culture. I remember having arguments with people who thought that we should put HIV-positive people in camps, “just in case” the virus spontaneously evolved into something that could be transmitted through the air, like a common cold. It was an ugly, sick time, and I don’t mean the sickness of HIV/AIDS.

You can see glimmers of that sickness now as some people start to advocate closing off the nation’s southern border, just in case people from Mexico are carrying a disease from Africa.

Dogs can clearly get Ebola, but as of right now, there is no record of them transmitting it to humans. At least one study says a theoretical risk exists that Ebola could be transmitted through contact with urine, feces, or saliva, but there are no recorded cases of this happening. There was no reason for Excalibur, the dog in Spain, to be euthanized, and there is certainly no reason to euthanize the pet of the nurse in Dallas. None of us would be an iota safer.

We’re glad that leaders in Dallas are keeping their heads and not blindly reacting just to give the illusion of acting. If policy hadn’t been shaped by panic and fear in the 1980s, more people may have lived through the early years of HIV/AIDS. If we stay calm and rational about Ebola, we have a better chance of keeping people (and dogs) alive.

Via USA Today

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