Those self-isolating due to coronavirus should also keep their pets away from other people, a leading vet has said.
Dr Conor Geraghty, veterinary surgeon and president of Veterinary Ireland, the industry’s regulatory body, said that while it was not transmissible by animals, they could carry the virus on their fur or skin.
Geraghty said: “Pets or animals don’t get Covid-19, but like any surface, like coffee cups or tables, pets are the same. If you sneeze or cough onto your pet, in theory that wil act as a contaminant for a shorter period of time, certainly shorter than hard plastic. It is a risk.”
He added: “If you are in self-isolation, your pet should be kept indoors with you, and shouldn’t be out wandering about meeting other people.”
Dr Geraghty said that measures have been put in place to keep Irish veterinary services running as near normal as possible while protecting the health of clients and staff.
He said: “Many practices have split their teams into two or three core groups, with no physical contact between them, to ensure that if a member of one group contracts the virus and is isolating, then others can step in to ensure the practice remains operating.”
Dr Geraghty said it was somewhat easier to keep two metres apart on farms, but added that vets sometimes need to remind farmers to stay away, especially if the vet is out to ensure the safe delivery of a calf.
He also said that vets are used to dealing with infectious diseases.
“We know the precautions to take. Indeed many vets will have first-hand experience dealing with such an outbreak during the foot and mouth disease epidemic,” he said.
He added: “Whilst on a different scale, the first principles are the same and this experience, as well as the deep medical knowledge and extensive practical training the veterinary profession has, allowed us to adapt virtually overnight to this new situation.”
Dr Geraghty said there was no comparison really to the foot and mouth outbreak, saying that had ultimately been a solely economic problem, with the virus then not transmissible to humans.
“Obviously we had to disinfect our boots and vehicles. But this is different. This is a human life and death situation. The country acted very responsibly that time, keeping it to one case in Louth, which was a massive achievement,” he said.
He said that he was concerned that Covid-19 would run right through the population and that it would remain a problem for the next 12 to 18 months.