The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine points out that coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that range from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Some coronaviruses cause cold-like illnesses in people, while others cause illness in animals, such as cats, dogs, cattle, pigs, horses, poultry, camels, and bats. The canine and feline coronaviruses are very common in pets and do not cause illness in people.
COVID-19 is believed to have originated from wild animals (likely bats) in China. Due to mutations in the virus, it developed the ability to infect humans and spread from person to person. There is no evidence at this time to suggest that any animals in the U.S., including pets, horses, livestock, or wildlife, might be a source of COVID-19 infection. It is always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals. This includes washing hands after handling animals, their food, waste, or supplies.
The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine provided some answers to common questions about animals and COVID-19.
What is the risk of COVID-19 infection in horses and livestock (cattle, small ruminants, camelids, swine)?
There have been no documented cases of COVID-19 infection in horses or livestock species, and there is no evidence to date that humans represent a risk of this infection to farm animals. However, there are many coronaviruses of veterinary importance, such as transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) and porcine respiratory coronavirus of swine, infectious bronchitis virus of poultry and equine and bovine coronavirus. While these are generally very contagious diseases within a group of animals, they are not often transmitted between species and are quite host-restricted.
It could be very upsetting to hear your veterinarian talk about coronavirus in your herd, flock, or barn at any time. Livestock coronavirus diseases represent a very low risk for human infection and disease (and are not COVID-19). However, other infectious disease of livestock are zoonotic, or diseases that can be transmitted between humans and animals. Salmonellosis, brucellosis, ringworm, rabies, tuberculosis, cryptosporidiosis, and Q fever are examples of zoonotic disease. These infections still remain important considerations when interacting with horses and livestock and emphasize the importance of routine biosecurity and rigorous hand hygiene after any contact with animals.
Do horses and livestock represent a COVID-19 infection risk for humans?
Humans are not at risk for passing COVID-19 to their horses or livestock and there is no reason to believe animals can transmit the disease to humans. However, the virus is very contagious between people, and circumstances where animals or their products bring people together can create a real risk of infection and disease during this pandemic. It is important to respect the current stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines when you must interact with others. To allow the benefits of interaction with horses and livestock to continue, including maintaining economic production, as well as the social and mental health benefits, practice rigorous hand hygiene during and after visiting farms and make sure you’re following these safety tips:
- Stay at least 6 feet away from other people.
- Limit the number of people in the barn at any one time.
- Encourage sick people (boarders, workers, veterinary staff) to stay home. Consider additional restrictions or closure in case of illness or poor compliance with recommendations.
- Clean and disinfect environmental surfaces regularly, and modify barn hours to allow for cleaning. Clear water, feed buckets, cross ties, lead ropes, tack, halters, grooming supplies, water taps, hoses, stall and door handles, wheelbarrows, shovel and broom handles, doorknobs, light switches, countertops
- Ensure availability of hand hygiene materials (soap and water, hand sanitizer).
What preparations should be made for horses and livestock during the pandemic?
Caring for livestock appropriately during this pandemic will ensure the maintenance of a safe, secure, and stable food supply, and ensure the health and well-being of companion and therapy animals that are important for the health and well-being of humans. Disaster preparedness for horses and livestock should include planning for consistent sources of hay, feed, medications, and alternative caretakers if needed. Create your plan now and share it with others who may play a role. Additional resources listed below provide recommendations on disaster preparedness for horses and livestock operations.
Additional resources regarding COVID-19 outbreak:
- The Ohio State University Veterinary Health System: Update on services
- American Veterinary Medical Association: What do you need to know about coronavirus?, Veterinary FAQ
- World Small Animal Vet Association (WSAVA): No evidence that COVID-19 can be contracted from pets
- Centers for Disease Control: COVID-19 and animals, Home care and isolation of people with COVID-19 who have pets
- Ohio Department of Health: Coronavirus in Ohio
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): Latest News and FAQ
- World Health Organization: Coronavirus outbreak
- American Association of Equine Practitioners:Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.Emergency and Disaster Preparedness
- Equine Disease Communication Center: Equine Coronavirus Resources
- American Association of Bovine Practitioners: aabp.org/
- Ohio Wildlife Center: Dealing with native wildlife animals
- The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center: 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Ohio State Insights: Coronavirus in dogs, cats and other pets