Things have been pretty quite regarding monkeypox in domestic animals lately. Whether that’s because human-to-animal infection is truly rare, and human case numbers are dropping, or whether it’s because there’s not enough surveillance in domestic animals that have been exposed to the virus isn’t clear. I suspect it’s a combination of the two. Our surveillance has been really slow since it’s been hard to recruit participants, but I doubt that human-pet transmission of monkeypox is very common.
However, uncommon doesn’t mean irrelevant.
For veterinarians, it brings up a new round of questions about potential occupational risks for veterinary staff and the potential for veterinary clinics to become hubs where the virus could spread. Those concerns aren’t without foundation, since pet-to-veterinarian transmission of monkeypox was identified in the 2003 prairie dog-associated outbreak in the US.
When we don’t have much data, it can be a challenge to provide clear guidance on how to prevent virus spread, but realistically we still have a good idea of what control measures are likely important based on basic our understanding of monkeypox virus and principles of infection control.
Like we did for SARS-CoV-2, we’ve teamed up to release some interim guidance for veterinarians about handling animals that may have been exposed to monkeypox, this time in conjunction with the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. It’s also available in pdf format.
As always, guidance might change as we get more information on what is (and is not) a significant risk). Changing guidance is actually a good thing – it shows we’re learning and improving. However, while we’re gathering more data, this is a good starting point to reduce the risk of monkeypox transmission to and from veterinary patients.