Hamsters and guinea pigs of monkeypox patients may need to be killed, experts warn

As cases rise in the UK, health authorities are increasingly concerned for the welfare of some domesticated animals, although the risk of them catching the virus remains low

Guinea pigs, along with mice, hamsters, and gerbils, should be kept away from people with monkeypox
Guinea pigs, along with mice, hamsters, and gerbils, should be kept away from people with monkeypox

According to the latest guidelines from European health authorities, monkeypox patients should give their pets a wide berth.

They even go so far as to recommend that rodents in the household — since they are most susceptible to the disease — such as mice, guinea pigs, hamsters and gerbils, should be isolated or even culled in government laboratories.

Culling has been viewed as a last resort where supervised isolation and regular testing are impractical, although it has been considered to halt disease progression in affected regions.

“Pets with rodents should ideally be isolated in supervised facilities, using conditions of respiratory isolation (e.g. a laboratory) and animal welfare (e.g. government facilities, kennels or animal welfare organizations) and (by PCR) for exposure be tested before the quarantine ends,” said the European Center for Disease Control.

Hamsters are on the endangered list when it comes to monkeypox


(Getty Images)

“Euthanasia should only be a last resort, reserved for situations where testing and/or isolation is impractical.”

There have been 90 reported cases of monkeypox in the UK, including 85 in England, while 344 suspected or confirmed cases have been reported in more than 20 countries worldwide.

While rodents are particularly at risk, other domesticated pets such as dogs and cats should also be kept indoors, although they are less susceptible to the double-stranded DNA disease, which is said to have originated from rodents in west and central Africa, although it has been there for the first time Identified in 1958 by Danish virologist Preben von Magnus in crab-eating macaque monkeys used as experimental animals.

dr Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, told the Telegraph: “There have never been any suspected or reported cases of monkeypox in domestic animals in the UK and the risk remains low.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and work with veterinarians and public health colleagues, both in the UK and around the world, to manage the animal health risks associated with monkeypox.”

Hamsters, gerbils, mice and guinea pigs may need to be killed in extreme circumstances, health experts say


(Getty Images)

The UK government will release advice in the coming days urging monkeypox patients to keep their distance from and avoid close contact with animals.

Professor David Robertson of the Glasgow Center for Virus Research revealed in the Telegraph that while the risk of monkeypox jumping from humans to domestic animals to wild animals is small, it is a “legitimate concern”.

“Rabbits and mice should be kept in mind as they are likely to be kept as pets,” he said.

“This virus has a fairly wide host range, which is always a concern when it comes to establishing itself in a new host species…it makes sense to monitor all animals/pets that infected people come into contact with.”

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