The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning about the danger of catching Covid from pets and farmed or wild animals.
Reservoirs of Covid have been found in a number of species around the world and there is evidence of people catching the virus from animals.
People with pets and those who come into contact with farm animals or the world are now urged to take precautions.
Among the dangers, pet hamsters have been shown to be able to transmit Covid to humans, and a third of white-tailed deer in the United States are thought to carry the virus.
In a statement, the WHO said: “Although the COVID-19 pandemic is caused 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 may affect the health of those populations and may facilitate the emergence of new variants of the virus.
“In addition to domesticated animals, wild animals in the wild, in captivity, or farmed such as big cats, mink, ferrets, North American white-tailed deer, and great apes have so 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 transmission between white-tailed deer and a human is currently under study.
“Introduction of SARS-CoV-2 into wildlife could lead to the creation of animal reservoirs. For example, approximately one-third of wild white-tailed deer in the United States of America have been reported to have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2, initially via several human-to-deer transmission events SARS-CoV-2 lineages detected in white-tailed deer have also circulated in nearby human populations. Virginie excretes the virus and transmits it between them.”
WHO says 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.
They added: “Current evidence suggests that humans are not infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus by eating meat. However, hunters should not follow animals that appear sick or harvest those that are found. Proper butchery and food preparation techniques, including good hygiene practices, can limit the transmission of coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, and other zoonotic pathogens.”
The statement continues: “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 casualties). Instead, they should contact local wildlife authorities or a wildlife health service professional.”