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). This page will be updated regularly (last update 6 April).
- 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.
- COVID and animals
At this moment, there is no evidence that animals can spread the virus further to humans. IDEXX and other companies already tested thousands of dogs and cats on COVID, and all cases were negative. Two dogs and a some cats so far tested weak positive without being sick and one cat (BE report & promed) in Belgium tested positive with symptoms possibly related to the COVID infection. One tiger in a zoo with symptoms also tested positive. In all cases, the owners had COVID and most likely contaminated the animals. An experimental study (not yet peer reviewed), shows the virus can replicate in ferrets and can infect cats. Despite this few animals found positive, no study or experience found any evidence of animal to human transmission. All transmission so far of COVID is human to human via direct or indirect contact.
Pet owners 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.
- Further reading:
Excellent blog from Dr. Scott-Weese: blog
- OIE covid webpage
- COVID: origin and transmission (in French)
- COVID and the veterinary services
Many countries are putting in place very stringent measures, from travel bans to total country lock-downs. 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 of 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 will defer some non-urgent procedures to preserve medical and pharmaceutical supplies. Veterinarians will adapt 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.
Some countries (e.g. UK, US) have exceptionally also 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.
- Statement of the World Animal Health Association (OIE) and the World Veterinary Association (WVA)
- Statement of American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
- European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians: Transmissible Diseases Handbook. https://www.eazwv.org/general/custom.asp?page=inf_handbook
- How to keep your veterinary teams healthy
The health and safety of the members of our profession is 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 others 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 Infograph produced by Spanish Veterinary Chamber
- Portuguese protocol for veterinary practices by OMV and APMVEAC
FECAVA_FVE Leaflet for Owners
- 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 shortage in protective equipment is reported 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 on firstname.lastname@example.org. Include detailed information about the product of concern and its manufacturer/distributor, if possible.
On 23 March 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 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%. Luckily, in most EU countries governments are adopting support measures for small and medium size 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 to 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. As veterinarians, we assist our human medical colleagues. Several universities/practices already donated there masks and other protective materials to hospitals. In many countries the veterinary profession is/has inventarised key equipment such as respirators, for if needed for the medical sector. Veterinary institutes are helping in several 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 be developed for rural areas in which often only one or two veterinary practices operate.
- Important resources:
Want more information, check out these resources:
- OIE website
- WHO website
- European Commission
- Federation of European Academies of Science
- FECAVA website
- WorldOMeter Corona
- AVMA resources
- European national veterinary resources: AU, BE (UPV), CH, CZ, DK, FI, DE (BTK– BPT, RKI), GR, FR, HU, IE, IT, NL, NO, PL, PT, RO, SK, ES, SE, UK (BVA and RCVS)