WHO Covid warning over catching virus from pets and wild animals

A warning has been issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) that there is a danger people can catch coronavirus from pets and farmed or wild animals.

A number of species across the world have been found to contain reservoirs of Covid and there is evidence that animals have been passing on the virus to people.

Now people with pets and those who come into contact with farmed or wild animals are being urged to take precautions, Wales Online reports.

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Among the dangers, pet hamsters have been shown to be capable of passing Covid to humans, and a third of white-tailed deer in the USA are believed to have the virus.

In a statement, the WHO said: “Although the COVID-19 pandemic is driven by human-to-human transmission, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is also known to infect animal species. Current knowledge indicates that wildlife does not play a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in humans, but spread in animal populations can affect the health of these populations and may facilitate the emergence of new virus variants.

“In addition to domestic animals, free-ranging, captive or farmed wild animals such as big cats, minks, ferrets, North American white-tailed deer and great apes have thus far been observed to be infected with SARS-CoV-2. To date, farmed mink and pet hamsters have been shown to be capable of infecting humans with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and a potential case of transmission between white-tailed deer and a human is currently under review.

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“The introduction of SARS-CoV-2 to wildlife could result in the establishment of animal reservoirs. For example, it has been reported that, approximately one-third of wild white-tailed deer in the United States of America have been infected with SARS -CoV-2, initially via several human-to-deer transmission events.The SARS-CoV-2 lineages detected in white-tailed deer have also been circulating in close-by human populations.White-tailed deer have been shown to shed virus and transmit it between each other.”

WHO says that anyone working closely with wildlife should be trained to implement measures that reduce the risk of transmission between people and between people and animals – including the use of PPE and good hygiene practices.

The organization added: “Current evidence suggests that humans are not infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus by eating meat. However, hunters should not track animals that appear sick or harvest those that are found dead. Appropriate butchering and food preparing techniques, including proper hygiene practices, can limit transmission of coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, and other zoonotic pathogens.”

The statement goes on: “As a general precaution, people should not approach or feed wild animals or touch or eat those that are orphaned, sick or found dead (including road kills). Instead, they should contact local wildlife authorities or a wildlife health professional.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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