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Coronavirus
Testing animals for SARS-CoV-2
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  1. Christine Middlemiss,
  2. Christianne Glossop,
  3. Sheila Voas and
  4. Robert Huey, CVOs for the UK and Devolved Administrations
  1. c/o Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR
  1. email: christine.middlemiss{at}defra.gov.uk

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The Covid-19 pandemic is placing unprecedented pressure on health services worldwide, with widespread person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Current evidence suggests that it emerged from an animal source. However, further investigations are needed to find the source, determine how the virus entered the human population, and establish the potential role of an animal reservoir in transmission.

There is emerging evidence that there is a possibility for some animals to become infected through close contact with infected people; however, there is no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in pets or other animals in the UK and there is nothing to suggest animals may transmit SARS-CoV-2 to people. Person-to-person is the predominant route of transmission. The government’s focus is therefore on providing SARS-CoV-2 testing capacity for people.

Infection of animals with SARS-CoV-2 meets the World Organisation for Animal Health’s (OIE’s) criteria of an emerging infection.1 As a consequence, veterinarians should report any positive test results for SARS-CoV-2 from animals they receive to the chief veterinary officer (CVO) in the administration where the virus was detected. A decision to test for SARS-CoV-2 should only be taken in the interest of the animal’s health and welfare with due consideration to the RCVS guidelines on veterinary work during the current social distancing requirements.2 Further guidance is available on the APHA veterinary gateway for veterinarians and laboratories on professional obligations with regard to SARS-CoV-2 testing in animals and reporting requirements for positive tests.3

Veterinarians are reminded that anyone handling animals from a household where Covid-19 is present should take precautionary hygienic measures. Further guidance for veterinarians and their clients on pets and Covid-19 is available on the APHA veterinary gateway.4 Guidance for pet owners and livestock keepers during the Covid-19 outbreak is available on gov.uk and each administration’s website.5-8

We would like to thank the veterinary profession for the key role it is playing in maintaining the health and welfare of animals in the UK, securing our food supply chain and supporting our public health colleagues during the Covid-19 outbreak.

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