COVID-19 the potential role of animals and food in virus transmission

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COVID-19 the potential role of animals and food in virus transmission

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the causative agent of COVID-19. A One Health approach is needed to identify the roles of humans, domestic and wild animals, and the environment in transmission of this virus.

Can humans acquire COVID-19 from an animal source?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that occur commonly in several animal species. However, these viruses are usually species-specific such as the canine coronavirus (CCV) in dogs [1] and the feline coronavirus (FCV) in cats [2]. Occasionally, humans can be infected with these viruses (zoonotic transmission) which may further spread to other people (human-to-human transmission). Examples of zoonotic transmissions include SARS-CoV, which is associated with civet cats [3] and horseshoe bats [4], and MERS-CoV which is transmitted by dromedaries [5]. To date, the possible initial animal source(s) of SARS-CoV-2 have not been confirmed.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises practising good food safety at all times.  Even if there are no indications that food is involved in the transmission of COVID-19, as a precautionary principle/attitude, consuming raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. [6].


Can humans catch COVID-19 from their pets?

According to the WHO, while there has been one instance of a dog being infected with SARS-CoV-2 in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 is mainly spread from person to person, through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks.

Click here to find the latest information on the basic protective measures each person is advised to take in order to protect themselves and others.


What do our experts conclude?

The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES), the One Health EJP lead co-ordinating institute, assembled an expert group that concluded that with the scientific knowledge currently available, there is currently no evidence that pets or livestock play a role in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 [7]. The One Health EJP will put specific focus on analysing this further. It is clear collaborative research efforts will be required to make the final conclusions.

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1. Buonavoglia et al, 2006, Canine Coronavirus Highly Pathogenic for Dogs, Emerging Infectious Diseases, 12(3): 492-494

2. Druschel et al, 2011, Feline Coronavirus in Multicat Environments, Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 41(3):1133-1169

3. World Health Organisation, 2020, SARS (Severe Acute Respirator Syndrome), date viewed:16. 03.2020, <>

4. Hu et al, 2017, Discovery of a rich gene pool of bat SARS-related coronaviruses provides new insights into the origin of SARS coronavirus, Plos Pathogens, 13(11): e1006698

5. World Health Organisation, 2019, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), date viewed:16. 03.2020, <>

6. World Health Organisation, 2019,Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, date viewed:16. 03.2020, < >

7. French Agency for Food, Environmental, and Occupational Health and Safety, 2020, COVID-19 cannot be transmitted by either farm animals or domestic animals, Date viewed:11.03.2020,



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