People around the world are talking about the outbreak of the coronavirus, but there are victims that are silently suffering behind the scenes. Those victims are animals that are left behind in China, as the outbreak of the coronavirus continues.
Some 11 million people live in Wuhan, China. The entire area is under lockdown, as it is thought to be the center of the outbreak of this new coronavirus. Many people who were traveling out of town have been unable to return home to care for their pets.
As a result of the outbreak, many animals are now stranded at home without their owners to care for them. Fortunately, there are some local rescue groups, including the Wuhan Pet Life Online community, that are saving dogs and cats that were unintentionally left behind by their owners and are now starving.
One veterinarian who talked to The South China Morning Post anonymously said that some 2000 pets have been rescued by the Wuhan Pet Life Online since the city was put on lockdown January 23rd, 2020.
“The pets were found in homes with no food and water. Their owners left their houses last month not expecting that they would not be able to return home,” the volunteer said. “Pets are beginning to starve to death or die from thirst.”
One 43-year-old man who lives in Wuhan is risking his own life to help rescue animals trapped in homes around the city. He told Reuters that it is nearly impossible to provide all the help that is needed.
“The volunteers on our team, me included, have saved more than 1,000 pets since Jan. 25,” the man said, who estimates that some 5,000 animals are still trapped and need help. “My phone never stops ringing these days. I barely sleep.”
Reuters is also reporting that pet owners are doing all they can to protect their animals from the coronavirus, even though there is no indication that the virus passes from humans to animals.
“I haven’t found any pet masks, so I’ve made one myself with a paper cup,” one poodle-owner in Beijing told Reuters.
PEOPLE reported that Anne Kimmerlein, DVM, MPVM, DACVPM – a veterinary epidemiologist for VCA Animal Hospitals, is not recommending that people use facemasks on their pets.
“While pictures of Chinese dogs wearing face masks are showing up online, there’s no scientific evidence that these masks protect dogs from either infectious diseases or air pollutant,” Kimmerlein told PEOPLE. “Dogs’ faces have a lot more variation than human faces do, meaning that a face mask designed to fit one type or breed of dog is unlikely to fit most others. Additionally, we cannot explain to a dog why we are putting something potentially scary or uncomfortable on their face.”
She also said that there is no indication that pets are at risk with the coronavirus outbreak.
Interestingly, the use of facemasks as a preventative measure against coronavirus is also not recommended for humans.
“Wearing a mask when you’re not sick has not been proven to help protect you with this kind of illness. It’s not something that I would do at this point unless you’re in an unusual situation where you’re around someone that you know is sick, but I wouldn’t recommend it,” Dr. Angela Hewlett, the medical director of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, said.
More than 40,000 people in China have been affected by the new coronavirus. As of February 10th, 2020, 910 people have died in China. 12 cases have been detected in the United States so far.
According to SCMP, a volunteer from another animal rescue organization claims that hundreds of other homes remain to be checked.
“There are still 700 more households’ requests to handle,” said the volunteer. “According to the degree of urgency, we do triage, handling the urgent cases first.”
They added: “There have been several tragedies in which pets had already died before we got into the house.”
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