UW Medicine study to screen pets of people diagnosed with monkeypox

Owners of dogs, cats, ferrets, rats, mice, and hamsters who have tested positive for monkeypox in King County are invited to have their animals screened for the virus as part of a new study, UW Medicine announced Wednesday.

The Monkeypox and Pets Study is currently underway in the University of Washington’s Center for One Health Research, directed by Dr. Peter Rabinowitz.

The study does not include birds or reptiles, UW Medicine said.

“We’re enrolling households where someone has been diagnosed with monkeypox,” Rabinowitz said. “Our team can go out and provide free testing of the animals and be able to tell with this study how big a problem this is.

“We don’t have any evidence at this point that a pet could infect a human (with monkeypox), but it just means that we should be cautious and take reasonable precautions at this point.”

UW Medicine said that pet owners can reduce the chances of infecting their pets by washing their hands often and by not sharing bowls and dishes with their animals. It also advised that kissing pets can put both the owner and the animal at risk.

According to UW Medicine, the Center for One Health Research previously tracked household transmission of COVID-19 between people and their pets, finding that about 40% of pets tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. “That suggested that the pets had been infected by exposure to their virus-carrying owners,” UW Medicine said.