On Friday, Bollywood actor John Abraham got agitated, when he tweeted that animals can’t ‘transmit or get COVID-19’.
He was referring to a Mumbai Mirror article which stated that a notice by BMC and other civic bodies had caused panic after it asked people to stay away from animals as a precautionary measure. The article stated that many pet owners – displaying their innate humanity – were simply abandoning their animals.
The human-animal transmission for COVID-19 is still a grey area that even WHO hasn’t quite figured out. Earlier, WHO had stated in its myth-busters:
Q: Can pets at home spread the new #Coronavirus (2019-nCOV)?
A: At present there is no such evidence that companions animals/pets such as dogs, cats can be infected with the virus. However, it's always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets.
However, the WHO proceeded to delete that bit from its myth-busters page.
In Hong Kong, two cases of dogs contracting the coronavirus has been reported.
A 2-year-old German Shepherd – owned by a COVID-19-infected 30-year-old woman – was quarantined by the government according by the South China Morning Post.
Three days earlier, another dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, died in Hong Kong after returning home from quarantine.
Professor Malik Peiris, a public health virologist told SCMP: “It is very likely that the two positive cases [in Hong Kong] are examples of human-to-dog transmission.”
However, there’s no evidence that the virus can be transmitted from pets to humans. Meanwhile, University of Illinois’ noted that even though pets can’t get serious from the infection, they can serve as conduits.
They said: “Yes. It is possible that a person with COVID-19 could sneeze or otherwise contaminate their pet, and then another individual could touch that animal and contract the disease. Veterinary experts believe the risk for transmission would be low. COVID-19 survives longer on hard, inanimate surfaces (e.g., glass, metal) than on soft surfaces (e.g., fur, cardboard). Nevertheless, animals living with sick individuals should be kept away from other people and animals (quarantined at home), just as people who live with sick individuals must avoid contact with others.”
While the jury is still out, and it’s inhuman to abandon one’s pets in times of a pandemic, perhaps human-to-dog transmissions are feasible.
While there’s still confusion about its origin, most experts agree that the virus started in Wuhan. Now coronaviruses are common in animals and evolve to affect humans. Two prime examples were the SARS Outbreak of 2002 and MERS 2010.
It’s believed that the first infected persons were associated with a wet seafood market, while another claims that the first patient wasn’t in contact with the market. China’s ability to shutdown information flow means that we will probably never know for sure.