The unknowns surrounding the transmission of COVID-19 continue to grip the veterinary and pet owner communities with questions and concerns. This week, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) updated its membership with the latest news about the virus, shared prevention strategies that can be implemented immediately, and offered tips and information veterinarians can relay to concerned clients.
Actively engaged on COVID-19 and its potential effects on veterinary medicine, the AVMA is in regular contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), veterinary medical experts and international agencies to gain the latest resources and intelligence on both the disease and its causative virus (SARS-CoV-2).
Companion animals and coronavirus
The AVMA is continuously monitoring for any connections between companion animals and the virus. A dog in Hong Kong tested "weak positive" for coronavirus (the dog’s owner also tested positive) on February 27 and remains under quarantine. That pet dog has since received a second positive result that has been sent to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which is working with Hong Kong health officials on the case. The clinical definition of “weak positive" remains unclear and is under further review.
The CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) have reported that there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19.
According to the CDC, people who are sick with COVID-19 should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as they would with other people. Individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 should avoid contact with animals, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food; those who must be around animals should wear an appropriate facemask and wash their hands thoroughly before and after interacting with those animals.
Concern over shortages of drugs and medical supplies
The AVMA is also monitoring potential medical supply chain issues, including both pharmaceuticals and medical products (e.g. personal protective equipment). According to the FDA, 32 animal drug firms in China manufacture finished drugs or source active pharmaceutical ingredients for the U.S. market.
Although each of these companies has told the FDA that there are no shortages at this time, six of the firms said they are seeing disruptions in the supply chain that soon could lead to shortages. The FDA is working with these firms to help identify interventions to mitigate potential shortages. Because many FDA-approved human drugs are used in veterinary medicine, shortages on the human side are certain to affect veterinary medicine.
COVID-19 prevention tips
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure to the virus and follow good hygiene protocols; currently there is no COVID-19 vaccine. The AVMA suggests that veterinary practices implement the following tactics:
- Designate your practice as a temporary “no handshake zone” (fist bumps or forearm bumps are good substitutes).
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the restroom; before eating; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; and between appointments. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Place hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and tissues in all exam rooms, meeting rooms, restrooms, break rooms and other common areas.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth, then discard the tissue.
- Any team member who has symptoms of respiratory disease, such as fever (100°F), cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills or fatigue, should stay home from work until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours.