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The novel strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, is transmitted through humans — not animals, and there is no evidence that livestock can transmit the disease to humans.
While coronavirus is a disease familiar to livestock producers, it is not the same strain of the virus that is grabbing headlines across the globe.
“Producers are well aware that there is a (different strain of) coronavirus that is associated with neo-natal diarrhea, and there’s another one that we think is now associated with cattle respiratory disease,” said Gregg Hanzlicek, director of the production animal field investigations unit in Kansas State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. “But I want to make it perfectly clear that our cattle coronavirus has no relationship to the coronavirus that is currently circulating in humans.”
These coronaviruses are species-specific.
“There is absolutely no indication that livestock can be carriers of COVID-19 and be a source of infection to humans, either through carrying it on their skin or their hair or anywhere else,” Hanzlicek said.
All food produced from these animals are safe as well.
Producers must continue to take care of their animals, but they should avoid unnecessary human contact.
Like Hanzlicek, the American Veterinary Medical Association states, Infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.
Livestock producers who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should see their medical professional. If their livestock begin showing signs of illness, Hanzlicek said they should contact their veterinarian.
“The local vet will call the state or federal veterinarian, and then a decision will be made whether to test those animals for COVID-19,” Hanzlicek said. “We don’t want to just start blanket sampling all animals. Again, with this virus, we do not believe that livestock are associated with spreading the disease.”
Hanzlicek said the USDA has relaxed its rules just a bit to allow producers to consult with a veterinarian through ‘tele-medicine’ — communicating an animal’s symptoms to a veterinarian by phone or online technology.
The K-State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, which tests samples for suspected livestock disease, remains open during the university’s limited operations status.