20 March 2020, Budapest, Hungary – Since the beginning of the global COVID-19 outbreak, FAO has been collaborating closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to assist member countries to identify potential animal hosts of this virus and reduce spillover events to humans.
Investigations to understand the epidemiology of COVID-19 and the involvement of animals as a virus reservoir or intermediate hosts are ongoing. At this point in time, however, the highest risk of COVID-19 spread is through human-to-human transmission. Thus, WHO is the authority and primary source of information regarding the human health aspects of this outbreak.
FAO is continuously monitoring and sharing information on the disease situation globally and is coordinating prevention, preparedness, and detection activities in animals in liaison with WHO and OIE using the One Health approach.
There is no evidence of the involvement of animals (livestock and pets) in the spread of the coronavirus, and there is no justification in taking measures that may compromise animal welfare. Instead, FAO promotes the usual hygiene practices of washing hands before and after handling or feeding livestock and pets, including the careful handling of wild animal and bush meat, in accordance with normal good practice.
Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, FAO has been actively promoting hygiene practices and epidemic updates through its communication channels globally, and strongly advises the public to take the following messages into account:
- There is no current evidence of dogs playing a role in the spread of COVID-19. As a general practice, when caring for any kind of animals, always wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
- People should not handle, slaughter, sell, prepare or consume meat that originates from wild animals or livestock that are sick or that have died from unknown causes.
- Raw wild meat or uncooked dishes based on the blood of wild animals should not be consumed. These practices place people at high risk of contracting any number of infections.
- Any unusual morbidity or mortality of animals should be reported to the animal health authorities.
In order to contribute to the prevention and control of the spread of the coronavirus, FAO strongly recommends all actions to be coordinated with a One Health approach, linking specialists in animal, human and environmental health.