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Five things to know about COVID-19 and Animal Health

The world is in the middle of a global pandemic. As we overhaul our daily lives to combat the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, we cannot overlook the importance of good animal health in our livestock and our pets.

So, we’ve brought together some important information to know about how COVID-19 is impacting the animal health sector.

1. What’s the latest guidance on pets and COVID-19?

While there have been isolated reports of pets testing positive for COVID-19, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has been quite clear:

The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals play a significant a role in spreading the disease. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.

Caring for pets can be challenging in a time of ‘lock-downs’ and movement restrictions though. Many people around the world are now restricted from going outside, which means more time spent indoors with their pets, making good hygiene and care are even more essential.

This is why the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), representing 200,000 veterinarians around the globe, also offers practical tips for pet owners such as:

• Wash your hands before and after touching your pet
• Limit contact with your pet if you are sick with Covid-19
• Call ahead before veterinarian visits to understand any new policies

Information on Covid-19 can change rapidly though. Keep in touch with your veterinarian and follow your local veterinary association to stay up to date.

2. What care are veterinarians providing pets and livestock and how are they doing it safely?

After calls from WSAVA, OIE, the World Veterinary Association (WVA), and local veterinary associations, many countries have declared veterinary services as ‘essential,’ in the same way as human healthcare services are. Veterinary care isn’t only critical for good animal health, it helps control the spread of diseases and ensures food security.

Many veterinarians are continuing to practice, although limiting services only to essential and emergency treatment for companion animals and continuing to care for livestock.WSAVA has provided guidance on pet vaccinations, while social distancing measures are being enacted in many clinics.

3. How is the Animal Health sector helping to address the COVID crisis?

Companies across the sector are working to support not only their employees, but the hospitals, healthcare workers and community around them. This includes actions such as:

• Protecting employees by expanding telework and instituting new practices in manufacturing such as temperature checks and staggered schedule to limit staff intraction
• Donating personal protective equipment to hospitals and enabling staff with medical backgrounds to take leave to join the COVID-19 response
• Strengthening our supply chains to ensure pets and livestock continue to receive the medicines, diagnsotics and care they need even during times of lockdown or quarantines

Take a look at our ‘COVID-19: How we are Acting’ document for more details.

4. Are there any issues with accessing animal medicines?

Authorities in major markets, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), are keeping track of the impact of the disease on supply chains. So far, both agencies report no shortages of veterinary medicines.

HealthforAnimals Members are working to keep animal health products accessible around the world by strengthening supply chains and advocating for these products to be considered ‘essential goods’ that can move across borders.

HealthforAnimals Members are closely monitoring their supply chains and will work with authorities if disruptions occur.

5. Is there any risk to food safety during this crisis?

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, authorities have been closely monitoring and testing products from livestock. In a recent interview with Euractive, the head of the European Food Safety Authority, Bernard Url, reported clear resultsThere is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also confirms:

Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission.

For more information, visit our COVID-19 page.