BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) announced Tuesday, Aug. 4 that it has its first reported case of a dog in the state testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.
“Initially, it was believed pets could not get the disease, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is now learning that animals can be infected,” said LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain, DVM.
LDAF says according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), there’s currently no evidence showing pets play a significant role in spreading the virus. Based on current available data, the risk of pets spreading the virus to people is considered low.
“It appears that people with COVID-19 can spread the virus to animals during close contact. It is important for people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to avoid contact with pets and other animals to protect them from possible infection. At this time, routine testing of animals is not recommended,” Strain added.
According to the CDC, when a pet becomes infected, some show mild signs of respiratory tract issues or gastrointestinal disease. A small number of cats and dogs have been reported to be infected with the virus in several different countries, including the U.S.
Strain is urging the public to not abandon or surrender their pets over COVID-19 fears due to the low transmission risk.
“If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, allow a family member or close friend to care for your pets. If no one is available, maintain a safe distance from your pet and frequently wash your hands before and after contact with your pet, their food, and supplies,” said Strain. “Remember, in the event of any emergency, it is wise to have a pet plan as you would have a game plan for your family.”
LDAF says according to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules, they cannot release any information that might identify the dog’s owner or where they live.
“How do dogs get tested?” questioned WAFB’s Lester Duhé.
“Well, the dogs are tested the same way. It’s a deep nasal swab,” said Strain.
While the transmission of the virus generally occurs from humans to canines, again, it’s very rare. There have been no reported cases of coronavirus transferring from pets to humans.
“Many pets are communal, especially cats. They will often sleep together, cuddle together, lick each other, so if the virus is present on the fur, then one animal could transmit to the other,” said Strain.
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