An outbreak of pneumonia in people in China has been drawing worldwide concernabout anew coronavirus (termed SARS-Cov-2) as a global public health risk. Thenew coronavirus was identified after notification of pneumonia cases ofunknown cause in December 2019, diagnosed initially in the Chinese city ofWuhan, capital of Hubei province. Thousands of cases have already beendetected in China, and the disease has been exported by travelers to manyother countries.Initially, there was no clear evidence for person-to-persontransmission. In the last few weeks, however, person-to-person spread of theSARS-Cov-2 has been confirmed, as shown by new cases of viral pneumonia amongfamily members and health care providers through close contact.
In January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) temporarily named the newvirus as 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).However, on February 11thit wasdefinitivelynamedSARS-Cov-2and the disease caused by this virus was named‘Coronavirus Disease 2019’ (abbreviated “COVID-19”). While more cases of thedisease are being reported on a daily basis in China and elsewhere, the exactsource of the outbreak is still not known.Currently, there is no evidencesuggesting a specific animal host as a virus reservoir, and furtherinvestigations are ongoing.
Coronaviruses belong to the family Coronaviridae. Alpha-and beta-coronavirusesusually infect mammals, while gamma and delta coronaviruses usually infectbirds and fish. Canine coronavirus, which can cause mild diarrhea and felinecoronavirus, which can cause feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), are bothalpha-coronaviruses. These coronaviruses are not associated with the currentcoronavirus outbreak. Until the appearance of SARS-Cov-2, which belongs to thebeta-coronaviruses, there were only six known coronaviruses capable ofinfecting humans and causing respiratory disease, including the severe acuterespiratory syndrome coronavirus SARS-CoV (identified in 2002/2003) and MiddleEast respiratory syndrome coronavirus MERS-CoV (identified in 2012).SARS-Cov-2is genetically more related to SARS-CoVthan MERS-CoV, but both are beta-coronaviruses with their origins in bats. While it is not known whetherCOVID-19 will behave the same way as SARS and MERS, the information from bothof these earlier coronaviruses can inform recommendations concerning COVID-19.
In the last few weeks, rapid progress had been made in the identification ofviral etiology, isolation of infectious virus and the development ofdiagnostic tools. However, there are still many important questions thatremain to be answered.
The most up-to-date information and advice on human infection can be found onthe following websites:
• World Health Organization (WHO) (see here)
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (see here)
The most up-to-date information related to animal health can be found on thefollowing website:
• World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) (see here)
In response to this outbreak, the WSAVA Scientific and One Health Committeeshave prepared the following list of frequently asked questions for the WSAVAmembership in collaboration with One Health interested individuals around theglobe. We are aware of issues related to pet abandonment in China and hopethat this information will be of use to veterinarians around the world indealing with the concerns of their clients.
How can I help protect myself and my clinic staff?
Visit the COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment page to learn about how to protectyourself from respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19 (see here)
Can COVID-19 infect pets?
Currently there is no evidence that companion animals can be infected with orspread COVID-19. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will beupdated as it becomes available.
Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick withCOVID-19?
The CDC recommends the following: “You should restrict contact with pets andother animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would aroundother people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animalsbecoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick withCOVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about thevirus. When possible, have another member of your household care for youranimals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact withyour pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharingfood. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick,wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask.”Please check for new updates on CDC’s website.
If my pet has been in contact with someone who is sick from COVID-19, can itspread the disease to other people?
While we do not yet know for sure, there is no evidence that companion animalscan be infected with or spread SARS-Cov-2. We also do not know if they couldget sick from this new coronavirus. Additionally, there is currently noevidence that companion animals could be a source of infection to people. Thisis a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomesavailable.
What should I do if my pet develops an unexplained illness and was around aperson with documented COVID-19 infection?
We don’t yet know if companion animals can get infected by SARS-Cov-2or sickwith COVID-19. If your pet develops an unexplained illness and has beenexposed to a person infected with COVID-19, talk to the public health officialworking with the person infected with COVID-19. If your area has a publichealth veterinarian, the public health official will consult with them oranother appropriate official. If the state public health veterinarian, orother public health official, advises you to take your pet to a veterinaryclinic, call your veterinary clinic before you go to let them know that youare bringing a sick pet that has been exposed to a person infected withCOVID-19.This will allow the clinic time to prepare an isolation area. Do nottake the animal to a veterinary clinic unless you are instructed to do so by apublic health official. 3
What are the concerns regarding pets that have been in contact with peopleinfected with this virus?
While COVID-19 seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is nowspreading from person-to-person. Person-to-person spread is thought to occurmainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs orsneezes. At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus isspreading between people. Learn what is known about the spread of newlyemerged coronaviruses. Importantly, there is no evidence that companionanimals including pets such as dogs and cats, can become infected withCOVID-19.
What should be done with pets in areas where the virus is active?
Currently there is no evidence that pets can be infected with this newcoronavirus. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animalsbecoming sick withCOVID-19,until we know more, pet owners should avoid contactwith animals they are unfamiliar with and always wash their hands before andafter they interact with animals.If owners are sick with COVID-19,they shouldavoid contact with animals in their household, including petting, snuggling,being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If they need to care for their petor be around animals while they are sick, they should wash their hands beforeand after they interact with them and wear a facemask. This is a rapidlyevolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.
Should veterinarians start to vaccinate dogs against canine coronavirusbecause of the risk of SARS-Cov-2?
The canine coronavirus vaccines available in some global markets are intendedto protect against enteric coronavirus infection and are NOT licensed forprotection against respiratory infections. Veterinarians should NOT use suchvaccines in the face of the current outbreak thinking that there may be someform of cross-protection against COVID-19. There is absolutely no evidencethat vaccinating dogs with commercially available vaccines will provide cross-protection against the infection by COVID-19, since the enteric andrespiratory viruses are distinctly different variants of coronavirus. Novaccines are currently available in any market for respiratory coronavirusinfection in the dog. [Information from the WSAVA Vaccination GuidelinesGroup].
What is the WSAVA’s response to reports that a dog has been ‘infected’ withCOVID-19 in Hong Kong?
Reports from Hong Kong on February 28, indicated that the pet dog of aninfected patient had tested ‘weakly positive’ to COVID-19 after routinetesting.The Hong Kong SAR Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department(AFCD) has reportedthat the dog, which is showing no relevant clinical signs,has been quarantined and further samples will be collected to confirm if thedog is actually infected with the virus, or if the test result has been causedby environmental contamination.
The AFCD’s website further states that it ‘does not have evidence that petanimals can be infected with COVID-19 virus or can be a source of infection topeople’. WSAVA urges pet owners in areas where there are known human cases ofCOVID-19 to continue to follow the information in its Advisory, includingwashing their hands before interacting with their pets and, if sick, wearingface masks around them.
We will update our Guidance as further information becomes available.
Note: WSAVA recognizes that not all recommendations will apply to all areasor all regions at all times, depending on the epidemiological risk and riskmitigation in the area. WSAVA encourages veterinarians to keep in closecontact with, and follow the directions of, their local veterinaryauthority.
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