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Why Dallas Won't Kill The Dog Of The Texas Nurse With Ebola

Dallas officials have decided against killing the dog belonging to the nurse diagnosed with Ebola this weekend.

Excalibur, the dog of the Spanish nurse hospitalized with Ebola last week, was euthanized over fears that it could transmit the virus to people and other animals. But this dog will be spared.

There’s a tiny snag, however: Neither animal was tested for the virus — we don’t have a test for Ebola in dogs.

Excalibur’s death was terrible news for the owner and dog lovers worldwide, many of whom took to Twitter or signed an online petition protesting Spain’s decision to put down the animal. Yet the science suggests his life was not taken for no reason: There is very limited evidence, but there does seem to be some risk that dogs could become infected with Ebola and transmit the virus to humans. “Human infection could occur through licking, biting, or grooming,” a 2005 report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says.

So why was this dog spared? Unlike in Spain, where the Madrid Department of Health issued an executive order to euthanize Excalibur, in the US all it took was a statement from Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to spare the animal. The pet is being sent to a new location to await the recovery of its owner.

“The dog’s very important to the patient and we want it to be safe,” Rawlings told USA Today.

The dog will be “monitored,” said David Lakey, the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services on Monday. But he did not provide additional details about what that monitoring would entail.

Without a test to ensure the dog isn’t carrying the virus, its safety will be difficult to determine. We don’t really know how to monitor its symptoms — would a dog with Ebola even develop symptoms we recognise, like a fever? — or ask if it is sick.

If we quarantine the dog, we still wouldn’t know how long to keep it under watch. Scientists know, for example, that the virus can develop in a human without showing any symptoms for 21 days. But they have no idea how long it could incubate inside a dog.

After reporting a fever on Friday night, the Dallas nurse with Ebola drove herself to the emergency room of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital where she worked. But before she came to the ER, the nurse missed two days of work, The New York Times reports. During this time, the nurse could have been home with her pet.

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