Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Page last updated: 04-22-2020

Overview of COVID-19

  • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others cause illness in certain types of animals.
  • Some coronaviruses that infect animals can sometimes be spread to people, but this is rare.
  • The CDC does not know the exact source of the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The first infections were thought to be linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now primarily spreading from person to person.
  • At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.
  • The CDC is still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.
  • The first case of an animal testing positive for the virus in the United States was a tiger that had a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City. To learn more, click here.
  • To date, globally, the only pets incidentally exposed to COVID-19 that have tested positive, with confirmation, for SARS-CoV-2 are two pet dogs and a pet cat in Hong Kong, and two pet cats in the United States.
  • Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.
  • Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by the virus that causes COVID-19 and the role animals may play in the spread of COVID-19.
  • This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

If you have questions about COVID-19, contact the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) by calling 2-1-1 and choosing Option 6, or emailing coronavirus@dshs.texas.gov.


Veterinarians

Health officials across the U.S. and all over the world are working hard to combat COVID-19. Veterinary professionals are receiving questions from their clients and their teams, and the TAHC is pleased to be able to share and provide credible information and resources to assist with responses to those questions.

What veterinarians need to know:

  • The betacoronavirus that causes COVID-19 is SARS-CoV-2 (formerly 2019-nCoV).
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not know the exact source of the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person.
  • The first case of an animal testing positive for the virus in the United States was a tiger that had a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City. To learn more, click here.
  • To date, globally, the only pets incidentally exposed to COVID-19 that have tested positive, with confirmation, for SARS-CoV-2 are two pet dogs and a pet cat in Hong Kong, and two pet cats in the United States.
  • At this time, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin or fur of companion animals.
  • Public health officials are still learning about SARS-CoV-2, but there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States.
  • Veterinarians and their staff should review and adhere to their biosafety and biosecurity protocols for infectious diseases to ensure the safety of their patients.
  • Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by SARS-CoV-2.

For questions pertaining to officially testing animals for SARS-CoV-2, please refer to the TAHC Interim Veterinary Guidance on Companion Animal Coronavirus Testing in Texas. USDA is aware of private veterinary laboratories that are conducting SARS-CoV-2 testing on animal samples. Any positive samples require confirmation testing at USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories. In accordance with international reporting guidelines, collecting additional samples and background information may be required to complete confirmatory testing of cases from private laboratories. Contact NVSL for more information.

If clients have human health questions they can call the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) by calling 2-1-1 and choosing Option 6, or emailing coronavirus@dshs.texas.gov.


Livestock & COVID-19

CDC has not received any reports of livestock becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States.

Essential Critical Infrastructure - Food and Agriculture
On March 19, 2020 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) identified the specific industries that comprise Critical Infrastructure Industries including food and agriculture. The list of those included in the critical food and agriculture infrastructure can be viewed here.

Livestock movements
There are currently no movement restrictions on livestock in the U.S. related to COVID-19.

If you live in an area impacted by a local stay-at-home order and want some extra reassurance in the event you’re asked by someone if you are part of an essential industry when conducting regular business, you can print and carry the letter from the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) and the DHS list of Critical Infrastructure Industries.


Pets & COVID-19

To date, globally, the only pets incidentally exposed to COVID-19 that have tested positive, with confirmation, for SARS-CoV-2 are two pet dogs and a pet cat in Hong Kong, and two pet cats in the United States.

Public health officials are still learning about SARS-CoV-2, but there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals, including pets, could be affected.

Until we know more, CDC recommends the following:

  • Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.

If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would around other people.

  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.
  • If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.