Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Page last updated: 06-03-2020

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.
  • The CDC does not know the exact source of the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but the CDC does know that it originally came from an animal source, 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.
  • This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause cold-like illnesses in people, while others cause illness in certain types of animals, such as cattle, camels, and bats. Some coronaviruses, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, infect only animals and do not infect humans.

Risk of animals spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to people

Some coronaviruses that infect animals can sometimes be spread to humans and then spread between people, but this is rare. This is what happened with the virus that caused the current outbreak of COVID-19. However, we do not know the exact source of this virus. Public health officials and partners are working hard to identify the source of COVID-19. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person.

The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking. Recent studies show that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. 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.

Risk of people spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to animals

The CDC and other animal health officials are still learning about this virus, but we know it is primarily spreading from person-to-person and it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.

The first case in the United States of an animal testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 was a tiger with a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City. Samples from this tiger were collected and tested after several lions and tigers at the zoo showed signs of respiratory illness. Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. This investigation is ongoing.

CDC is working with human and animal health partners to monitor this situation and will continue to provide updates as information becomes available. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.


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 CDC does not know the exact source of the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but the CDC does know that it originally came from an animal source, but the virus is now primarily 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.
  • Confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in United States Animals can be found on the USDA-APHIS website.
  • 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

What You Need to Know

  • A small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19.
  • Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.
  • It appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations.
  • Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people outside the household.
  • If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.

CDC recommends the following practices:

Until we learn more about how this virus affects animals, treat pets as you would other human family members to protect them from a possible infection.

Because there is a small risk that people with COVID-19 could spread the virus to animals, CDC recommends that pet owners limit their pet’s interaction with people outside their household.

  • Keep cats indoors when possible and do not let them roam freely outside.
  • Walk dogs on a leash at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from others.
  • Avoid public places where a large number of people gather.
  • Do not put face coverings on pets. Covering a pet’s face could harm them.

There is no evidence that the virus can spread to people from the skin, fur, or hair of pets. Do not wipe or bathe your pet with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or any other products not approved for animal use.

Talk to your veterinarian if your pet gets sick or if you have any concerns about your pet’s health.