The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the novel coronavirus, also called COVID-19, a public health emergency of international concern. This is a rarely given designation from the WHO, and reason for the global population to take note. COVID-19 is a serious health hazard, able to pass between people by way of tiny water droplets in the air we breathe.
If you are concerned about your own health and the health of your pet, you are not alone. However, there may be less to worry about than you think. Staying abreast of the facts and taking appropriate precautions will help you stay safe and feel more at ease.
WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS
The name “coronavirus” was first given to the disease when scientists discovered its shape under an electron microscope. The virus appears as a ring, circled by small “ornaments,” much like a coronet or crown.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that have been around for a long time. Some strains of this virus are common in animals, and in rare occurrences, some strains are able to mutate in order to be able to infect humans through contaminated meat, leading to epidemics like the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreaks. COVID-19 is a completely new strain of the virus, which has its own separate set of characteristics.
COVID-19 is a virus that causes fever and respiratory issues such as trouble breathing and a dry cough. The symptoms are mild or nonexistent for most people, but the elderly and those with compromised immune systems and underlying health conditions may experience more serious symptoms and can even die.
WHERE DID CORONAVIRUS DISEASE COME FROM?
We still aren’t sure where COVID-19 originated, though it’s been linked to unsanitary conditions in the global wildlife trade, much of which originates from the east coast of China. Only 27 of the first 41 people affected by the disease had visited the animal and fish market in Wuhan, the Lancet reports.
What’s important to note, however, is that this danger is most commonly present in live-animal markets, particularly those where freshly butchered meats from different animals are stacked on top of one another, allowing their blood and viruses to mingle and potentially form newly mutated virus strains capable of infecting humans. There is no evidence at this time that you can contract COVID-19 from a pet animal.
HOW IS CORONAVIRUS DISEASE PASSED AROUND?
More than 80,000 cases of COVID-19 have been documented in China since the outbreak began in December 2018. Containment of the disease has been imperative but easier said than done. In the last several weeks, the virus has traveled around the globe, infecting over 220,000 people and killing nearly 10,000 to date.
Researchers at Imperial College London maintain that the average COVID-19-infected individual will pass the virus on to at least two-and-a-half others. In contrast, someone infected with the measles is likely to pass the disease on to 12 to 18 others.
However, one place you’re not going to get COVID-19 from is your pet. Dogs are capable of being infected with a strain of coronavirus called canine coronavirus (CCoV), but they are not able to transmit COVID-19.
“While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date,” the WHO reports, “there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.”
ARE PETS IN DANGER OF CONTRACTING CORONAVIRUS DISEASE?
Your pet is not in danger of getting the COVID-19 virus. He or she may be able to catch CCoV if exposed to it, but it is not the same as the COVID-19 virus that currently has the world on alert.
“Many animals are vulnerable to coronavirus, the Mercury News reports, “but it’s not the scary one. And they can’t give it you.”
So no. We have no reason to believe you will pass COVID-19 to your pet if you get it, and your pet is unable to transmit the disease to you either. It’s one of the many benefits of having friends that are not the same species as you! So if you’re in quarantine or practicing social distancing (nice work, responsible human!), take the extra free time you have to enjoy your amazing pet without fear that COVID-19 might pass between the two of you.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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