COVID-19 impact on Animals


Last week I noticed this poster (tweeted by Eva Bartlett a Canadian journalist) and shook my head in disbelief.

Surely Otters can’t catch SARS-COV-2 ? So I started to research.

My research quickly took me to this link , a detailed article starting with the sensational claim that :

“Chimps and gorillas may catch COVID-19. Giant anteaters, bottlenose dolphins, horses, dogs, alligators, cats, sheep and Siberian tigers are also on the list of animals that may be able to catch and transmit the deadly pandemic coronavirus.”

Wow ! Scary shit.

However, my bullshit radar was alerted by the following phrases :

1/ “may catch COVID-19

as we all know by now, one does not catch COVID-19, one catches SARS-COV-2 which may (or may not in the majority of cases) develop into the disease known as COVID-19.

2/ “may be able to catch” – so do these animals actually develop the disease or not ?

3/ “deadly pandemic coronavirus” – did these animals actually die from this deadly virus ? If so where is the evidence ?

Reading further down the article we discover that :

Quote :

Have There Been Animal Outbreaks of Coronavirus?

In April, as the waves of coronavirus were still crashing over New York City, a four-year-old Bronx Zoo tiger named Nadia tested positive and started coughing, a hallmark of the COVID-19 disease caused by the pandemic.

The news deflated morale in a public still shocked and confused by the abrupt social distancing and quarantine measures that shuttered the nation in March.

Not even the beloved big cats in zoos are safe? Is the world ending?

Today we know a lot more about the novel coronavirus, now in the ninth month of its global assault. All eight Bronx zoo cats are fine, according to the latest news from the zoo. The zoo itself reopened to visitors in late July.”

OK so the animals did not die and are all doing fine (Big sigh of relief !)

Let’s read on.

Quote :

Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD., an emergency medicine specialist and microbiologist who writes for MedicineNet, stressed that animal outbreaks of COVID-19 are theoretical at this point. No major clusters of the disease among animal populations or contracted from domestic animals are documented.

I’m not aware of any major outbreaks among animals.”

So the statements are theoretical ?

What does it say in the research article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by the world renowned University of California, Davis ?

Well the title is a giveaway :

Broad host range of SARS-CoV-2 predicted by comparative and structural analysis of ACE2 in vertebrates

So this is a predictive analysis (aka a Model), made famous by Neil Ferguson et al (more on this in a future post)

We identified a large number of mammals that can potentially be infected by SARS-CoV-2 via their ACE2 proteins... Given the limited infectivity data for the species studied, we urge caution not to overinterpret the predictions of the present study.

Ah so this “may” “potentially” happen, but you have not actually found any real world data to prove your predictions.

So who is this obscure University of California, Davis anyway and who funds them ?

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – enough said.

Now it’s time to see what the CDC say about COVID-19 in animals.

Research on animals and COVID-19

More studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.

Many studies have been done (but the CDC fails to provide any references to these studies) to learn more about how this virus can affect different animals. These findings were based on a small number of animals, and do not show whether animals can spread infection to people.

The risk of pets spreading COVID-19 to people is low. Do not put masks on pets; masks could harm your pet.

There is no evidence that the virus can spread to people from the skin, fur, or hair of pets.

Hardly conclusive evidence from the CDC.

However they do provide a link to the US Dept of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service site. Maybe they will have the evidence ?

Breathlessly I click on this link :

“More information on COVID-19 can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/animals/pets-other-animals.html ” – which takes me back to the same CDC page I just left !

So do Otters actually catch COVID-19 in the real world ? Luckily I eventually found the website of the World Organization for Animal Health, who publish weekly bulletins on SARS-COV-2 “Cases” in animals :

and it is indeed true that 2 Otters have tested positive since February 2021…….

However it was the 360 cases of SARS-COV-2 in Mink that caught my eye.

I vaguely remember something about an outbreak in Mink farms in Denmark some time last year. But surely there were more than 360 ?

What I discovered next is far more disturbing to animal lovers like myself than the poster of the unmasked Otter.

But you will have to wait until next week’s post to discover why.

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