FVE is actively monitoring the situation on COVID-19 and its potential impacts on veterinary medicine. Our goal is to support you with relevant information in this fast-evolving situation. We are in regular contact with WHO, OIE, ECDC, EU and all our sister veterinary associations (FECAVA, EBVS, WVA, AVMA, etc).
Basic information on COVID
COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses (CoV) are a family of RNA (ribonucleic acid) viruses. COVID-19 started in Asia and is now spreading over the rest of the world via person-to-person contact and community spread. For more information, see FVE COVID.
To prevent infection and to slow transmission of COVID-19, do the following:
– Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub.
– Maintain at least 1 metre distance between you and people coughing or sneezing.
– Avoid touching your face.
– Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
– Stay home if you feel unwell.
– Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
– Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people. (Source: WHO).
- COVID & animals – COVID & food
‘Should we be afraid of getting COVID from animals? No, animals have to be afraid to get it from people, not the other way around’.
Over the months, despite massive research, only a few isolated cases of animals have been found infected with COVID. This shows that this is a virus with a clear preference for humans and that the main transmission method is human to human. The role of animals, as we know now, is neglectable.
IDEXX and other companies already tested thousands of dogs and cats on COVID, and all cases were negative. Some dogs and some cats so far tested positive; some with, others without symptoms. (OIE). Several tigers and a lion in a zoo in New York also tested positive. Four Dutch fur farms with mink also were found to be infected with COVID. In all cases, COVID was transferred from people to the animals, with a possible infection back to humans on fur farms. One study published in Science, shows the virus can replicate in ferrets and in cats. Another study done by the Friedlich-Loeffler Institute shows the fruit bats and ferrets are susceptible, pigs and chickens are not. Seen that so few animals have been found positive, despite the massive research for it, shows this is a virus with a clear preference for humans.
See European Commission Question and Answer document about COVID & animals HERE.
Nevertheless, pet owners and fur farmworkers should always maintain good hygiene practices (including handwashing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing them) and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets. If an owner has COVID, close contact with family members, including pets, should be avoided. Good resources on this can be found by Dr. Scott Weese .
As veterinarians, it is important to ensure that this crisis and its aftermath will not lead to animal welfare problems e.g. abandonment of horses, an increase of stray dogs, etc. The FVE animal welfare working group together with many other organizations is keeping a close eye on this and trying to prevent problems from occurring.
Despite the large scale of the pandemic, there has been no report of transmission of COVID-19 via consumption of food to date. Therefore, as stated by the European Food Safety Authority, there is no evidence that food poses a risk to public health in relation to COVID-19. The main mode of transmission for COVID-19 is considered to be from person to person, mainly via respiratory droplets that infected people sneeze, cough or exhale
See EU Commission Covid & food safety Q&As HERE
- EU Commission
- OIE covid webpage
- Guidance from Canada on animals and COVID: here
- COVID: origin and transmission (in French)
- European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians: Transmissible Diseases Handbook
- Excellent blog from Dr. Scott-Weese: blog
- COVID and the veterinary services
Many countries have put in place very stringent measures, from travel bans to total country lock-downs, which now slowly start to be released. Luckily all countries in Europe recognize that veterinary services are to be considered essential businesses. Veterinarians and their teams provide important animal and public health disease surveillance to prevent disease outbreaks, including zoonotic diseases. They ensure food security and that people have safe food to eat by ensuring only healthy animals and their products can enter the food supply. Veterinarians provide ongoing medical care and oversight as well as surgical and emergency services to ill and injured animals. The veterinary services also include the national and regional veterinary regulatory and inspection services, which oversee the integrity of public health. They also oversee veterinary services conducted in animal hospitals, mobile clinics, ambulatory services, zoos, etc. In addition, they oversee the care of laboratory animals, which are critical to research medicines and vaccines, including vaccine research against COVID-19.
During this crisis, some veterinary practices had to defer some non-urgent procedures to preserve medical and pharmaceutical supplies. Veterinarians adapted practices to ensure an appropriate level of biosecurity, wear protective personal equipment, and social distancing that safeguards the health of our animal patients and their owners. Many countries had discussions on what is urgent and non-urgent work in relation to companion animals, but seen the length of this crisis, focusing on urgent/emergency work alone is not feasible and will create serious health and welfare problems and probably an overflow of work after the crisis. The UK created a flow chart on this.
Some countries (e.g. UK, US, FR) have exceptionally allowed remote consultation and prescribing to strike the right balance between providing essential veterinary care for animals and safeguarding the health of the profession and the public. FVE is currently preparing a position paper on telemedicine.
- Statement of the World Animal Health Association (OIE) and the World Veterinary Association (WVA)
- Statement of American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
- How to keep your veterinary teams healthy
The health and safety of the members of our profession are paramount, and we would urge all vets to follow the advice of their government and national veterinary authority.
The veterinary team can be kept healthy by strict hygiene and disinfection protocols, protective equipment, social distancing rules, adapted sick leave procedures (everybody with the slightest symptom stays home), and protocols for animal owners. With personal protective equipment in short supply, it is nevertheless important that the veterinary team stays protected.
Rosie Allister, director of the VetLife Helpline, produced 10 tips to maintain mental health for FVE: FECAVA_FVE_MentalHealth_Well-being_COVID-19_Tips
- FECAVA/ FVE leaflet for companion animal practitioners (English, Arabic, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Portuguese, and Slovenian) + many other languages here
- FECAVA/ FVE leaflet for companion animal owners (English, Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Estonian, French, German, Portuguese, Slovenian) + many other languages here
- AVMA resource for pet owners,
- AVMA resource for veterinarians,
Italian leaflets produced by FNOVI (for owners, for vets, regarding prescription)
- Spanish Infographic produced by Spanish Veterinary Chamber
- Portuguese protocol for veterinary practices by OMV and APMVEAC
- Potential supply chain impacts
The COVID-19 outbreak raises concern about potential medical supply issues, including medicines and personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, masks, gowns) and surgical drapes. Luckily, so far no veterinary medicines supply shortages have been reported, although problems with shortages in protective equipment occurred in most countries. Nevertheless, the European Medicine Agency (EMA) and national medicines authorities are working with companies to mitigate potential shortages. FVE is in close communication with EMA. If you experience shortages, please contact your national veterinary association and medicines authority and please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include detailed information about the product of concern and its manufacturer/distributor, if possible.
On 23 March 2020 the European Commission (C(2020)1897) decided that medicines (including veterinary medicines), personal protective equipment, and live animals are included in the products having access to the ‘Green Lanes’ at border crossings, meaning that they have priority passing the border. This should guarantee the free movement of veterinary medicines, ensuring these are recognized and regulated as essential goods and services in support of animal health and welfare, and so maintain continuity of services and medicines availability for pets, livestock, and supply in the agri-food chain.
- Impact on veterinary services
Many small- and medium-sized businesses, including veterinary practices, are going through a period of significant financial difficulty. In many countries, revenue is down by more than 50%. FVE is in close connection with veterinary associations in all European countries. Many have been surveying their members for the impact, which shows to be substantial. Luckily, in most EU countries governments are adopting support measures for small and medium-sized companies affected by COVID restrictions e.g. loans, delay of income tax, etc.
If the veterinary sector has not yet been included in support plans for businesses affected by Covid-19 in your country, we suggest you contact your national veterinary organisation or government to see what support measures are possible for your sector.
- Solidarity with colleagues and the medical profession
As veterinarians, we are a ‘One Health’ profession and unfortunately, have plenty of experience with the prevention and control of global outbreaks. Now more than ever, veterinarians are assisting in most countries our human medical colleagues. Several universities/practices already donated their masks and other protective materials to hospitals. In many countries the veterinary profession is/has inventoried key equipment such as respirators if needed for the medical sector. Veterinary institutes and laboratories are helping in many countries processing COVID tests. The animal health industry is producing medical devices and protective equipment. Many veterinarians are lead persons in COVID task forces in national countries and on a European level. Together, in a One Health way, we will be able to control COVID.
Veterinary solidarity within the profession is also at work. In some countries, due to self-isolation or social distancing measures, the veterinary workforce is stretched. Some of us became or will become ill, some of us will need to care for others. It is vital that we all work together as a profession to mitigate any impacts on our own and our colleagues’ wellbeing, as well as serious animal welfare impacts, as much as possible. Contingency plans also need to be developed for rural areas in which often only one or two veterinary practices operate.
- Important resources:
Want more information, check out these resources: