PFMA on possible cases of Covid-19 in animals

The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) said pet owners don’t need to be alarmed as long as Government advice is followed.

As per guidance from UK Government, there is no evidence of the novel coronavirus circulating in pets or other animals in the UK and there is nothing to suggest animals may transmit the disease to humans.

Sarah Hormozi, the PFMA’s head of science and education, said:However, in line with the general advice on fighting the current pandemic, people should wash their hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.”

Ms Hormozi highlighted the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which states that the predominant route of transmission of Covid-19 is from human to human. However, now that infections are widely distributed in the human population, there is a possibility for some animals to become infected through close contact with infected humans.

She said: “So far two dogs in Hong Kong and one cat in Belgium have tested positive to Covid-19 virus following close contact with infected individuals. Having said that, there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of Covid-19.”

Since the early stages of the pandemic, WHO and OIE have been repeatedly stating that the predominant route of transmission of Covid-19-19 is from human to human, and that there is no evidence that companion animals have spread the disease.

Now a new study, reported in Nature journal on April 1, further supports this existing theory by providing new data.

Ms Hormozi said: “The study, conducted at Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China, looked at susceptibility of a range of species to the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. The results showed that cats, exposed to high doses of the virus in a laboratory environment, can be susceptible to the virus and spread it to other cats, but no direct evidence to show infected cats secreted enough coronavirus to pass it to humans.

“They also found that dogs, chickens, pigs and ducks are not susceptible to the Covid-19 coronavirus, but ferrets could be highly susceptible to it. The report concluded that the focus in the control of the global Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly needs to remain on reducing the risk of human-to-human transmission.”

Ms Hormozi said that during the current crisis pets continue to provide companionship, emotional support and consistency in the lives of their owners, which are estimated to be almost half of UK households.

“The physical and mental health benefits of pet ownership, in encouraging exercise, reducing loneliness and anxiety, and providing structure and daily routine, are evident now more than ever,” she said.

“Pets should continue to receive the care they need for optimum health and welfare, during the current pandemic. PFMA will keep monitoring the new science and collate information from UK Government departments and organisations such as the British Veterinary Association (BVA) to keep the UK pet food manufacturing sector, and pet owners, informed.”

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