There are a number of ways viruses can be transferred from animals to humans – called spillover – and from people to animals – called spillage. Since monkeypox is most easily transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact, it’s a bit more difficult to transmit between species than COVID-19, but certainly possible.
The case of the dog in Paris provides a clear example of how the hug or proximity of a pet can spread the virus. Previous studies on poxviruses like monkeypox have shown that they can stay active in feces. This means that there is a risk of wild animals, probably rodents, catching it from human waste.
Monkeypox virus is also present in saliva. Although further research is needed, it is potentially possible that an infected person could throw food away which would then be eaten by a rodent.
The chances of any of these happening are extremely low. But I and other virologists are concerned that with more people infected, there is a greater risk of rodents or other animals coming into contact with virus-contaminated urine, feces or saliva. .
Finally, there is the risk of people transmitting monkeypox to a pet, which then transmits it to other animals. A case study from Germany described an outbreak of cowpox that was caused when someone took an infected cat to a veterinary clinic, and four other cats were later infected. It is possible that an infected pet could transmit the virus to wild animals in some way.
how to help
One of the main reasons the World Health Organization was able to eradicate smallpox is that it only infects humans, so there were no animal reservoirs that could reintroduce the virus into human populations.
Monkeypox is zoonotic and already has several animal reservoirs, although these are currently limited to Africa. But if monkeypox escapes into wildlife populations in the United States, Europe or elsewhere, there will still be the potential for animals to spread it to humans. With that in mind, there are a number of things people can do to reduce risk when it comes to animals.