Expert’s COVID-19 warning: ‘don’t treat pets less than you would humans’

6 AUGUST 2020

 Expert’s COVID-19 warning: ‘don’t treat pets less than you would humans’

Charles Sturt academic warns that the risks of those positive for COVID-19 passing the virus to their pets is a very real threat.

  • Charles Sturt epidemiology academic warns human-to-animal transference of COVID-19 should not be ruled out
  • Lecturer advises those with the COVID-19 virus should avoid contact with their pets
  • Hygiene education is the key to preventing spread of disease in humans and animals

The message from a Charles Sturt University biomedical science lecturer is clear – do not treat animals any different than you would treat humans during a pandemic.

Charles Sturt Lecturer in biomedical science in the School of Community Health in Orange Dr Ezekiel (Uba) Nwose said the COVID-19 pandemic has been a lesson in infection control.

The spread from person to person has been documented by scientists and the media for months, but Dr Nwose, who is also professional medical scientist and public health epidemiologist, said it is not only humans who are at risk.

Considering the virus’s suspected origin of passing from animals to humans, Dr Nwose said the reverse is not improbable.

“Viruses are not a living thing,” he said.

“They are an infectious agents that don’t survive outside of living things but become biologically alive once in living things.

“The idea of animal infections is not strange, it is the concept of reverse zoonosis. Animals infect humans … but it is downplayed that humans can as well infect animals.”

Cases of domestic cats and dogs contracting COVID-19 in the United States and United Kingdom have been documented.

Dr Nwose said Australia could see such cases without proper precautions, including those positive for COVID-19 relocating their pets or keeping their distance from animals until they are better.

There is not yet a lot of documentation about COVID-19 in animals, but Dr Nwose said respiratory distress is likely to be the first and most prominent symptom in pets, and veterinarians should be consulted for more expert advice.

“Don’t treat pets less than you would humans,” he said.

“The likelihood is there, but to prevent that likelihood we have to pass on the public health message, and we have to keep up with our hygiene education.

“Whoever has COVID-19 should stay away from domestic pets.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in America recently released guidelines for how to protect animals during the pandemic.

Dr Nwose said cats are more likely than dogs to pick up the infection, but that all animals should be monitored if there is a positive COVID-19 case in the household.

Media Note:

For more information or to arrange interviews with Dr Ezekiel (Uba) Nwose, contact Nicole Barlow at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0429 217 026 or news@csu.edu.au

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