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Ebola Virus and Animal Quarantine

posted on Tue, Nov 8 2016 4:44 pm by The Network for Public Health Law

A health educator from Michigan recently contacted the Network for information about legal authority to quarantine animals in the event of an outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD). EVD is a severe, life-threatening illness that initially infects humans through contact with the contaminated bodily fluids of animals. An outbreak of EVD in West Africa in 2014 was traced to a young boy in Guinea who had contact with an infected bat, according to scientists. The virus traveled overseas and subsequent cases in the United States  spurred many health agencies to review laws regarding quarantine and emergency legal preparedness.

The Network reviewed relevant state and local laws regarding animal quarantine, as well as guidance from the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and provided the following information.

County Ordinances

The requestor’s county in Michigan has ordinances that apply to rabies or animal bites in general, but do not provide quarantine for other conditions.

Michigan Statutes

  • 333.5111 List of reportable diseases, infection, and disabilities; rules. This regulation provides broad authority for the investigation, control and treatment of communicable diseases.

  • 333.2433 Local health department; powers and duties generally. This statute has provisions that give broad general authority to local health departments to prevent and control environmental health hazards and diseases.

  • 333.2451 Imminent danger to health. The strongest provision for quarantining an animal would likely be the "imminent danger to health" provisions found in this statute. It provides broad authority to the local health departments to take immediate action to protect the public's health. The pet owner, upon notice of an order for animal quarantine, would be required to take immediate action necessary to avoid, correct, or remove the imminent danger. In this case, the action would be turning over their pet to the appropriate officials for quarantine of the animal.

  • 333.2435 Local health department; additional powers.  Under this statute, local health departments have authority to, "Adopt regulations to properly safeguard the public health and to prevent the spread of diseases and sources of contamination." A health department could use this provision to develop regulations specifically addressing the quarantine of animals when Ebola exposure is a concern.

Michigan Regulations

Note: In the following, "the department" means the Michigan department of community health.

"A representative of the local health department or the department may obtain human, animal, environmental, or other types of specimens or cause such specimens to be obtained by appropriate means, including venipuncture, in the course of an investigation of a reported disease, infection, or condition."

It may be possible to use this regulation to obtain a pet and hold them under quarantine as an appropriate means of obtaining specimens in the course of an investigation of a reported Ebola infection.

Note: In the following, "the department" means the Michigan department of community health.

"A physician or other person who attends to a case of communicable disease shall arrange for appropriate barrier precautions, treatment, or isolation if needed to prevent the spread of infection to other household members, patients, or the community. A physician or other person who seeks information on appropriate precautionary measures may request the local health officer or the department to provide the necessary information. Appropriate isolation or other barrier precautions may be instituted for a case or a suspected case of disease, infection, or other condition by the local health officer or the department as necessary to protect the public health."

It may be possible to use this regulation to quarantine a pet, since it provides authority for arranging appropriate barrier precautions or isolation if it is needed to prevent the spread of infection. It does not specify that the barrier precautions or isolation measures are limited to humans.

Guidance Resources

There are also several resources that have been developed to aid public health officials and veterinarians with quarantine procedures for animals exposed to Ebola: