SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic: Species Transmission and Groceries

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SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic Species Transmission and Groceries

World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) stated on April 21, 2020:

“Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19. Human outbreaks are driven by person to person contact.”

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) updated on April 22, 2020:

“Currently we have no information that suggests that pets might be a source of infection for people with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated on April 21, 2020:

“Although we know certain bacteria and fungi can be carried on fur and hair, there is no evidence that viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread to people from the skin, fur, or hair of pets.”

Remember, the situation regarding SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus causing COVID-19 disease, is rapidly evolving.

If you hear something on the news, we urge you to wait until the AVMA, OIE and World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) have definitively weighed in on the situation.

Species Transmission

First it was snakes. Then bats. Then pangolins. And now, cats, dogs and even a tiger.

All of these species have been postulated as the intermediate host for SARS-CoV-2.

What’s an intermediate host, you ask?

Well, SARS-CoV-2 has been documented to reside in bats, just like the initial SARS-CoV-1 strain of the early 2000s, with the civet cat (a distinct species from domestic feline cats) as a species in the middle, called an intermediate host. The other coronaviruses of MERS-CoV from 2012 and 2018 were transmitted from bats to dromedary camels to humans. Similar to the earlier coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 did not pass directly from bats to humans. Rather, an intermediate host (believed to be the pangolin) transmits SARS-CoV-2 to humans. This process of microbes – such as viruses, fungi, bacteria and parasites – jumping from one species to another is called zoonosis.

Figuring out and proving the intermediate host (or hosts) is important.

The science of proving this is difficult, takes time, and needs to be conducted and verified by more than one team of researchers.

The snake hypothesis was debunked. The pangolin hypothesis has been met with skepticism. The dog hypothesis has been widely criticized and clearly tossed aside.

The AVMA diplomatically remarks on these hypotheses, “These are all hypotheses based on comparative analysis of RNA coronaviral sequences and none have been confirmed to date.”

Now, you might be confused due to the statements from the various organizations listed above. Those relate to SARS-CoV-2 being spread from humans to companion pets and then back again. SARS-CoV-2 more than likely mutated in humans after it crossed the species barrier to humans.

There is no need to be alarmed. Your companion dogs should be fine and there is no evidence they are the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

To Your Household’s Health: Do I need to wipe off my groceries?

Once SARS-CoV-2 started being real in early March in the United States, signs cropped up throughout grocery stores encouraging people to wash fruits and vegetables. We hope you did this prior to the pandemic to get the microbes and chemicals off.

If you are being extra vigilant during these times, here are some tips for rinsing fruits and vegetables off:

  • No need to use commercial vegetable washes.
  • Water or distilled water is fine.
  • Use cool water that is approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Gently scrub firm produce with a vegetable brush and then wash the brush with soap.
  • Colorado State University has video tutorials demonstrating best washing practices.

After those reminders popped up at grocery stores, videos of people wiping down food packaging started populating YouTube.

Do we need to wipe off our packaged groceries?

Well, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) say there is no evidence of food packaging being associated with the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The FDA’s statement:

“Again, there is no evidence of food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19. However, if you wish, you can wipe down product packaging and allow it to air dry, as an extra precaution.”

The agency also cautions not to use disinfectants like wipes or bleach on the actual food you are putting in your mouth.

Same as before the pandemic, you should always wipe off the lids of cans.

OK? So what about meat?

The USDA says:

“We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging.”

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) notes, “Thorough cooking will kill the virus.”

Bear in mind, the FSAI is referring to someone who may be unknowingly infected and touches the raw food causing transmission of the virus. It is not referring to the meat or vegetables as the source of SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Overall, the same practices that were recommended before are still the same as before the pandemic.

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