There is currently no evidence to suggest that companion animals, pets, or service animals can spread the novel coronavirus, according to a briefing from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Despite the fact that this virus seems to have originated via an animal source, the CDC believes it is now spreading person-to-person.
The CDC recently released guidelines
for public health professionals who are managing the home care and isolation of people with coronavirus who may have animals in their homes. They have not received any reports of pets or other animals being sick with coronavirus.
Care managers should first assess
whether home care is appropriate for patients. The caregivers should evaluate whether there is a separate bedroom where a patient can recover without sharing personal space with others, if there are food and other necessities present, if there is personal protective equipment at the home (including at a minimum: gloves and a facemask), and what the risks are to others in the home that may be over the age of 65, pregnant, children, or immunocompromised.
If pets or other animals are present in the home, the CDC suggests that patients inform their health care worker of that fact. Once a health care worker has been informed about a pet in the home of a person with coronavirus that has been isolated, they should notify the state public health veterinarian
or another designated animal health professional. Any state public health veterinarian who has been notified of pets or another animal exposed to coronavirus can consult the CDC 24/7, the agency said.
Coronavirus patients isolated in their homes should be advised to limit interaction with their pets and any other animals—especially if they remain symptomatic. Just as they would avoid close contact with other people living in the home, symptomatic coronavirus patients should “avoid direct contact with pets, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food,” the CDC outlined in their recommendations. However, “service animals should be permitted to remain with their handlers,” they said.
Another household member should be designated as the pet’s caregiver, if possible, the CDC said. If the coronavirus patient under isolation must be the one to care for the pet, the CDC recommends making time to wash their hands before and after caring for the pet. Additionally, the agency suggested that the patient wear a facemask while interacting with pets until they are cleared to return to normal activities.
However, in his White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing
on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence stressed the fact that there is no need for Americans to buy facemasks at this time.
The CDC also noted that states may have their own specific guidelines for circumstances where there is a companion animal in a coronavirus patient’s home. Their guidelines specifically recommend a more conservative approach, they said, due to the unknown risks to pets and other animals.
The CDC developed their guidelines for this situation based on the limited data available specifically for coronavirus in combination with more generalized recommendations for zoonotic disease infection prevention and control, they said.
They added that their guidelines will be updated as new information becomes available for this “rapidly evolving situation.”
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