(CNN) — More than 330,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org to save Ebola patient Teresa Romero Ramos’ dog, Excalibur.
Ramos, a nurse’s assistant, is in isolation in Spain after testing positive for the deadly Ebola virus earlier this week. Health authorities in Madrid are worried her dog also may have become infected.
Which warrants the questions: Can dogs really get Ebola and spread it to humans? What about other animals?
“In Africa, (Ebola) infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines,” WHO says, though researchers think fruit bats are what they call the virus’ “natural host.”
Studies on dogs transmitting the infection are not as conclusive. During the 2001-2002 Ebola outbreak in Gabon, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the virus in around 25% of dogs living in the affected area of the country. Yet none of the animals become symptomatic or died of the disease during the study period.
“Wild animals, especially gorillas and chimpanzees, can also be infected by Ebola virus, but the infection is highly lethal and causes huge outbreaks and massive population declines,” the scientists wrote in their published paper.
Still, dogs may excrete infectious Ebola particles in their urine, feces or drool, the scientists wrote, as has been observed happening with other animals.
“Asymptomatically infected dogs could be a potential source of human Ebola outbreaks,” they wrote.