OIE answers your questions on COVID-19 and essential veterinary care

In the framework of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Veterinary Association (WVA) jointly draw attention to the roles and responsibilities of the veterinary profession for public health.
calendar icon 20 March 2020
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OIE Questions and answers

The OIE has provided their expert answers to a number of common questions about COVID-19 and animals.

Are animals responsible for COVID-19 in people?

The predominant route of transmission of COVID-19 appears to be from human to human.

Current evidence suggests that the COVID-19 virus has an animal source. Ongoing investigations are important for identifying the animal source (including species involved) and establishing the potential role of an animal reservoir in this disease. Yet, to date, there is not enough scientific evidence to identify that source or to explain the route of transmission from an animal source to humans.

Genetic sequence data reveals that the COVID-19 virus is a close relative of other CoV found circulating in Rhinolophus bat (Horseshoe Bat) populations. There is the possibility that transmission to humans involved an intermediate host.

Priorities for research to investigate the animal source were discussed by the OIE informal advisory group on COVID-19 and were presented at the WHO Global Research and Innovation Forum (11-12 February 2020) by the President of the OIE Wildlife Working Group. The outcomes from the discussion of the OIE informal advisory group on COVID-19 can be found at the link.

What precautionary measures should be taken by owners when companion or other animals have close contact with humans sick or suspected with COVID-19?

There have not been any reports of companion or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 and currently there is no evidence that they play a significant epidemiological role in this human disease. However, because animals and people can sometimes share diseases (known as zoonotic diseases), it is still recommended that people who are sick with COVID-19 limit contact with companion and other animals until more information is known about the virus.

When handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented. This includes hand washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food.

When possible, people who are sick or under medical attention for COVID-19 should avoid close contact with their pets and have another member of their household care for their animals. If they must look after their pet, they should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a face mask if possible.

Read the full Q&A online.

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