We’ve all heard the term “coronavirus” more often than we’d like. What is it? Who can get it? Who can die from it? As long as there’s no vaccine to prevent it and no cure to treat it, how do we protect ourselves, our loved ones, and yes, even our pets?
There is a large family of coronaviruses, some of which strike humans and others that afflict animals. SARS, which made the news a few years ago, is a coronavirus disease. Some coronaviruses that infect animals have become able to infect people, and then spread from person to person. However, this is rare. SARS was one coronavirus that first infected animals and then spread to humans.
The coronavirus disease responsible for the present panic is known as “COVID-19,” an acronym for the Corona Virus Disease that first surfaced in 2019. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the World Health Organization, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the British Veterinary Association, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread by companion animals, such as dogs and cats, to humans. There is also no evidence that companion animals may be a source of COVID-19 in the United States.
It has been reported that humans first contracted COVID-19 from infected bats. These reports have been neither confirmed nor refuted by the CDC.
If you’ve heard about the reported Hong Kong dog cases, don’t panic!
Around the world, animal rescue organizations have reported an increase in the number of dogs being abandoned or surrendered to shelters by panicked owners afraid that their dogs may carry or spread COVID-19. Other owners have quarantined their dogs inside, hoping to learn at some point that they can safely let their dogs resume their “normal” lives. There’s no reason to panic: there is no evidence that a dog or cat can become sick and transmit COVID-19 to humans.
- The first dog to test positive for COVID-19 died without ever showing symptoms.
Part of the panic arose after a story about a Hong Kong dog that ostensibly contracted the COVID-19 virus went viral.
The dog was a 17-year-old Pomeranian suffering from other ailments. The dog’s owner was a 60-year- old woman who contracted COVID-19 but eventually recovered. The result of the dog’s COVID-19 test was a “weak positive.” After a two-week quarantine and two negative tests, the dog was returned to its owner. Two days later, it died.
A number of experts questioned whether the dog, which never showed symptoms of the disease, actually contracted COVID-19. There were concerns about the test’s ability to tell whether the dog had actually contracted the virus, or whether the dog had simply licked a contaminated surface in its
infected owner’s home.
Whether the dog had in fact died from any of its other ailments was not known. The owner would not consent to a necropsy (an autopsy on an animal), so the truth may never be known.
- The second dog to test positive showed no symptoms, and is still alive.
A second Hong Kong dog, a German shepherd, repeatedly tested positive for COVID-19. Like the first dog to test positive, the shepherd belonged to a person infected with the virus. The shepherd was taken in for testing together with a mixed-breed dog from the same household. The mixed-breed dog tested negative. Neither dog showed any symptoms. Neither dog has died, and both continue to be tested.
- Laboratory testing of thousands of specimens from dogs and cats were all negative.
A global network consisting of over 80 laboratories committed to the advancement of pet care, IDEXX, tested thousands of canine and feline specimens in the course of evaluating a new veterinary test system for the COVID-19 virus. IDEXX reported that there were no positive results in dogs or cats for the coronavirus strain responsible for COVID-19 disease in humans.
The only documented cases of COVID-19 transmission between dogs and humans are the two Hong Kong cases involving transmission from a human to a dog. There are no reports of any dog-to-human transmission.
The only means by which a dog can “transmit” COVID-19 to a human is by serving as a conduit allowing virus particles, shed by an infected human onto the dog, to be picked up by a healthy person, in the same way as a countertop, bicycle handlebars, or a doorknob facilitates the transfer of virus particles from an infected individual to the next person who touches that surface. Especially if the healthy person touches his or her face without first following the recommended hand washing protocol, he or she may become infected.
Just as virus particles can live on a countertop, bicycle handlebars, or a doorknob for some time, the virus particles may be able to live on a dog’s coat or tongue for enough time to be picked up by a healthy person.
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Exercise caution when encountering other people’s dogs.
While there’s no evidence that dogs can become carriers of COVID-19 and infect humans, e.g., by biting, a dog that is not infected may still serve as a conduit allowing the transfer of the virus shed by an infected person to you or a loved one. There are precautions you should take when you walk your dog, or when you’re considering petting or playing with someone else’s dog.
- If the dog’s owner, keeper or walker is present, keep your distance. Even if the person shows no signs of having COVID-19, he or she could be infected. If anyone exposed to the virus coughs, sneezes, or releases airborne droplets on you, that person can infect you.
- If the dog’s owner or household member is infected, he or she could have contaminated the dog’s coat. The virus particles may live on the dog’s coat for some time, although the virus will not last as long on porous substances (a dog’s coat or skin, cardboard, fabric) as on nonporous surfaces such as glass or metal. Wash your hands before and after touching the dog, and don’t touch your face until you’ve washed your hands.
- If you are infected with COVID-19, don’t touch or play with someone else’s dog. You may contaminate the dog’s fur, its collar, its toys, or its owner.
- Practice social distancing when walking your dog. Stay at least six feet away from other dogs and the people accompanying them.
- Wash your hands before and after handling any dog (touching, petting, playing with, walking, and feeding it).
If you are bitten or injured by someone else’s dog, trust a full-service law firm to protect your interests.
Dog bites can have serious consequences. Coronavirus is not one of them.
It’s conceivable (but highly unlikely) that you could acquire the virus by touching the dog’s fur or being licked after the dog licked an infected person. Although you can’t get coronavirus from a dog bite, you can get rabies if bitten by an unvaccinated dog.
If you’ve been bitten by someone else’s dog, you deserve to be compensated for your injuries—medical expenses incurred to treat the bite wounds, lost income, emotional distress, and other losses arising from the bite. Once your medical needs have been evaluated, reach out to an experienced law firm with expertise in dog bite cases.
Like so many others who have placed their trust in us, you can count on Slater & Zurz LLP to thoroughly evaluate your claim, answer your questions, and recommend a strategy to ensure that your needs are met, based on your circumstances and the expertise we’ve developed in over 40 years of successfully handling dog-bite and personal injury cases. Call or email our team of seasoned professionals for a free consultation. We’re here to serve your legal needs with compassion, dedication, and the drive to win for you.
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