Monday, July 27, 2020

You, Your Dog and the Coronavirus— Let’s Be Canny About Canine Covid. A Guide To . . . . [?]

You've probably seen things written about children as coronavirus spreaders. . .

Children get the coronavirus just like everyone else, but almost never have symptoms and it's exceedingly rare that children experience any harmful effects.  But human children can spread the virus just like everyone else.

That much as a given, we see mask wearing parents strolling down the street with maskless toddlers charging off in front of them lurching happily in variously directions, or we see a parent or caretaker pushing a stroller with two maskless young ones craning their necks as they exercise their lungs with complaining wails, or perhaps a Covid masked parent carries an infant in a front pack that places the infant's unmasked face forward, directly right in front of their own.

The dictates of etiquette to wear a mask are pretty strong these days (and somehow polarizingly politicized as well), but the etiquette for our children as virus spreaders is different.

So you've probably seen things published about children as virus spreaders.  Published often, or maybe often enough?  Whether it's been often enough, it's been more often than you have seen anything published about our pet dogs, who also widely accompany us, as potential virus spreaders.  Back in April, writing about Covid-19, I wrote asking: What about dogs as virus spreaders?  I was waiting to finally read something about the subject in the general press. Nothing ever turned up.  I finally decided that it was time to go research the subject, that there must be something to be found.

The guidance and information that follows below is sourced mainly from:
    •   The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    •   The American Kennel Club
    •   American Veterinarian Medical Association
There is also some minor fill-in of additional information on the fringe of the subject added in from the New York Times, and a few other sources, Wall Street Journal, Healthline, etc.

Before you begin to read, you should know that the CDC, the American Kennel Club, and the Veterinarian Medical Association, all preface their offered advice with basic reassurances telling dog owners not to worry about their dog's transmission of Covid, but then they go on. . .
Here is a compilation of their guidance, and we can further discuss what it may mean in terms of the big picture after its presentation:

* * * * *
You, Your Dog and the Coronavirus
Let’s Be Canny About Canine Covid
The first thing to remember is that the Covid-19 coronavirus arrived on the doorstep of the human race through interspecies transmission.  The fact of the zoonotic origin of the virus was determined virtually day one of the pandemic’s emergence with knowledge of the zoonotic origin immediately communicated widely to the public.

Not only can dogs get Covid (and test positive for it), you can get Covid from your dog, and your dog can get Covid from you.  The same is true of cats (including tigers*), which are about as closely related to humans as dogs.  Dogs, like cats are much more closely related to human beings than either the exotic wet market pangolins or Chinese bats that are believed to have helped the virus to make the first crossovers of species infections.
(* Eight tigers at the Bronx Zoo were infected by just one asymptomatic person.)
In addition to their original shared genetic heritage with humans, dogs have been co-evolving with humans since their first domestication 33,000 years ago.  This engenders a host of similarities, including things like diet.  Because of the similarity of dog physiology to humans, beagles are, for example, an animal of choice as a medical stand in for the human species for researchers, like those at the Columbia Presbyterian medical center, when they test drugs to potentially be used on humans to treat inflammation or experiment with organ transplants.  The Covid-19 respiratory disease is, notably, partly an inflammatory illness.

If you have Covid:
    •    Isolate yourself from your dog and any other pets who may associate with your dog.
    •    Avoid all contact with your dog such as petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sleeping in the same location, and sharing food or bedding.  Do not let your dog come into areas where you have been.
    •    Act prudently to keep your dog separate and away from members of other households on the assumption your dog may have become infected.
    •    If your pet becomes sick, do not take your pet to the veterinary clinic yourself.   
If your dog gets Covid:
    •    Isolate your dog.  It is recommended to confine your dog to a designated “sick room.”
    •    Do not pet your dog, snuggle, kiss, share food or bedding, or allow yourself or anyone else to be licked by your dog.
    •    Wear a cloth face covering and gloves when in your dog’s presence, and wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
    •    If you are at higher risk for severe illness from Covid, turn your dog’s care over to another person, preferably a household member.
    •    If you must walk your dog, limit it to short bathroom breaks only and be extra careful to pick up your dog’s waste with gloved hands (dispose immediately in sealed bag), plus avoid all interactions with other pets and people. Ideally, infected dogs should be walked in an area that can be readily sanitized in a dedicated area separate from other animal populations.
    •    Disinfect bowls, toys, with an EPA-registered disinfectant and carefully launder items such as towels, blankets, and other bedding.
    •    Do not visit veterinary hospitals without calling the veterinarian first. Veterinarians and their staff should adhere to biosafety and biosecurity protocols for infectious diseases to ensure the safety of their patients.
    •    Pets with confirmed Covid infections should remain in isolation until a veterinarian or public health official has determined that they can be around other pets and people.
    •    Caveat: If your dog gets Covid you are unlikely to know it, because dogs who get Covid almost never show symptoms (as many as 80% of humans may also be asymptomatic and unaware when that are infected with Covid.- If your dog has symptoms, monitor them.) 
General precautions against Covid spread applicable to your dog at all times:
    •    Treat your dog as you would any other human family members – do not let dogs interact with people or other dogs outside the household.
    •    Walk dogs on a leash keeping them socially distant from other people, dogs and pets.  It is estimated that infectiousness from exhaling Covid virus without a mask (staying potentially infectious for hours) can travel up to perhaps 18 feet, particularly in an exercise or panting situation– Recognize that some extendable leashes can add many additional feet to that for dogs inclined to roam.
    •    Avoid taking your dog public places where a large number of people gather, or narrow streets that force close proximity. If necessary, keep dogs indoors when possible.  Avoid, for instance, visits to parks (including dog parks), markets, or other gatherings such as festivals.
Additional notes:

•    The companionability of your dog can be a valuable antidote to the anxieties that dealing with Covid-19 24/7 evokes.  With isolation and quarantine, reducing those anxieties can have a beneficial impact on human health.
•    There have been no random testing studies for Covid antibodies for dogs in New York City or elsewhere to determine whether any herd immunity is developing for that subpopulation.
•    There have been no tests to determine the prevalence of Covid-19 T-cell immunity in the canine species as a possible factor in developing canine heard immunity.

* * * *

When I found what I found as guidance on the sites of  CDC, the American Kennel Club, and the American Veterinarian Medical Association I compiled it and set it forth as I did above to share with you the impression that I personally got as I bounced and shuffled around the various pages where they offered their suggested guidance: The demanding hypervigilance of it all seems like a satirical recipe for anxiety in contrast to the assurances with which they casually started.  Although compiled all together in one place, the dos and don'ts above are all pretty much all exactly their words, not mine, so I'm not making anything up. 

It obviously raises questions about where to draw the line.  And maybe reviewing and considering these questions in the context of dogs can refresh our perspective as we consider everything else we are doing as the news about Covid batters us 24/7 and, in response, we preoccupy ourselves about what to do to keep safe.  The mask thing is now a thing more than ever, and it's probably the most symbolically visible in terms of signals of social etiquette, but does the gloves thing still apply?  How many times are we supposed to wash our hands every day and for how many minutes?  Do you spray your shoes and your entryway with Lysol every time you return from the great outdoors (where everything is supposed to be safer than indoors)?. .

. . . We may all certainly feel more personally vulnerable and stimulated to undertake increased protections when the New York Times writes about how even the strong and mighty tigers of India, with whom none of us live, are sorely threatened by the virus, but if media outlets published similarly prominent stories warning us to curtail our cuddling with the pouches who jump into our beds at night and who provide us with sanity preserving quarantine companionship, some of us might rebel.  Some of us might push back to say that lines being drawn were becoming far too strict.  Nevertheless who is to say that the canine Covid infection is really less a story than tigers strickened in remote jungles?  It's soothing and preferable to be told not to worry about Fido.

Bridling at, and perhaps questioning where lines are being drawn is not to say that Covid is not a real thing or that Covid is somehow ripe to be made light of.  Like all medical illnesses it continues to deliver multiple personal tragedies to those unfortunate enough to suffer its worst effects.  New York City, once considered the center of runaway infection in the U.S., has experienced, according to the New York Times figures as of this writing (July 7, 2020), an estimated 22,970 deaths attributed to Covid infection going back to about mid-March.  More recently, since the time of George Floyd's May 25th Memorial Day murder, the bell curve for New York City deaths has been trailing off.  New infections in the city were once estimated to exceed 6,000 a day (that was before more widespread testing and after more than 20% of New Yorkers in the city were already antibody positive according to random testing), but, on this side of the bell curve the virus still takes a toll.  As of this writing, the New York Times reports 225 new NYC cases of coronavirus yesterday (with a seven-day average of 334 new identified cases per day) and 9 new deaths attributed to Covid (with a seven-day average of 11 deaths per day).

No one wants anyone to die from the virus.

If you are in suspense and still wondering, if you go to the guidance that served as my sources, you will see that, in all of it, nobody advises putting a mask on your dog.  They all advise against it. . . Decide now what you will about young toddlers and babies wearing masks.

On last very big picture thing to mention: As all these safety preoccupations concern us to whatever extent they may, the new coronavirus is simultaneously being used callously and opportunistically as an excuse for one of the biggest transfers of even more trillions of wealth to the wealthiest that we have ever seen and for other significant restructurings of our society, while, meanwhile, we do nothing about existential threats like global warming and climate change.

PS: (added August 1, 2020) Since this article was published, the New York Times ran a story about a virus infection research study about the likely infectiousness of children saying that "Infected children have at least as much of the coronavirus in their noses and throats as infected adults, according to the research" and "children younger than age 5 may host up to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults, the authors found."  (See: Children May Carry Coronavirus at High Levels, Study Finds, By Apoorva Mandavilli, July 30, 2020.)   The news to us was not how very likely it is that children are as infectious as adults, but the news that anyone ever thought that maybe they weren't. At best there was little research on the proposition generating inconclusive indicators. . .  That's except for an article published in the Times just days before that this new one was now contradicting (whiplash anyone?)
More Updates: 

August 19, 2020- Democracy Now Headline- "World Health Organization Says Young People Are Driving Coronavirus Outbreaks"

Democracy Now (September 18, 2020) and New York Times (September 8, 2020): Testing with mask-protected Hamsters infected with Covid shows that it can work like an inoculating “crude” vaccine if masks let just a little bit (and not too much) of infecting coronavirus through.

November 05, 2020- Democracy Now: Denmark officials ordered millions of mink to be killed because of concerns that they could transmit an evolving strain of the  novel coronavirus back to humans.  

November 5, 2020- New York Times: Experiments are showing that a nasal spray that acts a bit “like a vaccine” is able to protect ferrets from getting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.  If the spray also works in humans, “it could provide a new way of fighting” the coronavirus pandemic. Ferrets are used for these experiment by scientists “because they can catch viruses through the nose much as humans do.”  (SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 in humans. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus in humans. In animals, the disease is referred to as SARS-CoV-2.)

November 24, 2020- New York Times: A “host of new research” including “with hamsters” supports the view that a newer, increasingly prevalent mutated version of the coronavirus is more transmissible and thus better at “infecting people more easily” and going “more easily from person to person and making the pandemic harder to stop.” Hamsters were “more quickly” infectious of others with this variant.
January 4, 2021- New York Magazine (the cover story). The Lab-Leak Hypothesis For decades, scientists have been hot-wiring viruses in hopes of preventing a pandemic, not causing one. But what if …?  By Nicholson Baker (Nicholson Baker is a hero to us as a brilliant writer/researcher who independently broke very important ground reporting on the suspiciously wasteful destruction of huge amounts of information in our libraries).  In the New York cover article he provides some coronavirus history: “Beginning in the 1970s, dogs, cows, and pigs were diagnosed with coronavirus infections; dog shows were canceled in 1978 after 25 collies died in Louisville, Kentucky. New varieties of coronaviruses didn’t start killing humans, though, until 2003 — that’s when restaurant chefs, food handlers, and people who lived near a live-animal market got sick in Guangzhou, in southern China, where the shredded meat of a short-legged raccoonlike creature, the palm civet, was served in a regional dish called “dragon-tiger-phoenix soup.” The new disease, SARS, spread alarmingly in hospitals, and it reached 30 countries and territories. More than 800 people died; the civet-borne virus was eventually traced to horseshoe bats.”
January 22, 2021- New York Times- The Coronavirus Kills Mink, So They Too May Get a Vaccine-  The pandemic has been a powerful reminder that there is no clear barrier between viruses affecting animals and people.  By James Gorman
"At least two American companies, as well as Russian researchers, are working on coronavirus vaccines for mink. The animals have grown sick and died in large numbers from the virus, which they have also passed back to people in mutated form.

. . .the mink infections in the United States do pose a threat to public health. At least two minks that have escaped from the farms have tested positive. And one wild mink tested positive. Scientists worry that if the virus spreads to more wild mink or to other animals, it could become established in natural populations and form a reservoir from which it could emerge, perhaps in mutated form, to reinfect humans at another time. . .

 . . . although the Agriculture Department is not now considering any applications for vaccines for cats and dogs, that is a possibility that the companies are considering."

March 31, 2021- New York Times- Russia claims to be the first country to develop coronavirus shots for animals. By Andrew E. Kramer "Russia’s state veterinary service said on Wednesday that it had become the first regulator in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine for animals, intended for use on fur farms or for pet cats and dogs. . . The agency said it had developed the vaccine for animals in part as a public health tool, lest the virus spread from animals to humans or — in a worst-case scenario — mutate in animals and then spread back to humans in a more virulent form. .. . . The Russian agency noted four reports of pet infections just in the last week, in Italy and in Mexico. It that said a vaccine for pets was needed as insurance against variants that might spread more easily."

May 20, 2021- NPR Morning Edition: Infectious Disease- New Coronavirus Detected In Patients At Malaysian Hospital; The Source May Be Dogs  Scientists at Duke University say they have discovered what may be the latest coronavirus to jump from animals into people. And it comes from a surprising source: dogs.

"In the past 20 years, new coronaviruses have emerged from animals with remarkable regularity. In 2002, SARS-CoV jumped from civets into people. Ten years later, MERS emerged from camels. Then in 2019, SARS-CoV-2 began to spread around the world. . . For many scientists, this pattern points to a disturbing trend: Coronavirus outbreaks aren't rare events and will likely occur every decade or so. . .Now, scientists are reporting that they have discovered what may be the latest coronavirus to jump from animals into people. And it comes from a surprising source: dogs. . . "
March 2021 and August 2021- Nature: The coronavirus is rife in common US deer-  Survey results show that many white-tailed deer, a familiar sight on US lawns and golf courses, have antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19. by Smriti Mallapaty, August 2, 2021, National Geographic: Wild U.S. deer found with coronavirus antibodies- White-tailed deer, a species found in every U.S. state except Alaska, appear to be contracting the coronavirus in the wild, - 40%, by Dina Fine Maron, August 2, 2021, Popular Science/MSN: White-tailed deer test positive for COVID-19 in lab studies, Dave Hurteau/Field & Stream  3/24/2021:
COVID-19 has been known to pass from humans to ferrets, mink, dogs, cats, and other animals, and this cross-species transmissibility has prompted researchers to test other creatures. The latest: whitetail deer.

* * *
In a pair of studies, researchers gave whitetail fawns strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including the most common human strain.
Bow Hunting: Whitetail Deer Are Contracting Covid-19- a Preliminary Study Shows as Much as 40% of the Wild White-tailed Deer Population May Have Contracted Covid-19.- A study published this week indicates that wild whitetail deer are contracting SARS-CoV-2 and developing the antibodies used to fight off the infection.  By Justin Zarr, August 3, 2021, Field and Stream: COVID-19 Hits Wild Whitetail Population- Forty percent of nearly 400 wild deer tested were positive for COVID-19. The deer seem unharmed, by Tom Keer, August 5. 2021.

August 23, 2021-  MSN/USA Today: 15 rescue dogs, including 10 puppies, killed by council in Australia over COVID-19 concerns, by Jordan Mendoza

A local government in the state of New South Wales in Australia faced criticism after reports surfaced they ordered 15 dogs killed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among shelter workers.

August 23, 2021- Huffington Post: Furor Erupts After Australian Officials Kill Rescue Dogs Over COVID-19 Fears- One of the female dogs had reportedly just given birth to a litter of puppies. By Mary Papenfuss

“We are deeply distressed and completely appalled by this callous dog shooting,” Animal Liberation activist Lisa Ryan told the Herald.

“We totally reject council’s unacceptable justifications that this killing was apparently undertaken as part of a COVID-safe plan.”

January 6, 2022Dr. John Campbell’s YouTube Channel: Omicron from mice,

Given that genetic analysis shows that Omicron diverged from the B.1.1 lineage roughly in mid-2020, without any of its evolved mutations found in versions of the virus that infected the human population, including Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, there is a theory that the many accumulate Omicron mutations could have evolved in and been transmitted back from another mammalian host, prime candidate perhaps being mice.
January 19, 2022- Democracy Now: Japan Sets New Curbs, Hong Kong Culls 2,000 Exposed Hamsters, as Asian Nations See COVID Surges.

In Hong Kong, authorities started confiscating small animals from pet shops after announcing it would cull some 2,000 hamsters and other small mammals after a dozen of imported hamsters tested positive for COVID-19.  
January 19, 2022 Updated January 25, 2022- New York Times: Animals That Infect Humans Are Scary. It’s Worse When We Infect Them Back.- Mink farms threaten to become a source of new coronavirus variants — and an object lesson in how ‘spillback’ can make deadly diseases even deadlier. By Sonia Shah

The farmer wore thick leather gloves to protect his hands from the minks’ powerful bites, but he did not wear a mask. I was fully vaccinated and had tested myself to ensure I wasn’t infected, but he didn’t ask me about my vaccine status nor did he ask me to wear a mask. (Masking on mink farms, like vaccinations and testing, were not legally required.) Before I left, I asked if I could take his photograph. He reached into a cage, grabbed a mink by the torso and held it up for the camera. The mink opened its mouth, inches from the farmer’s grinning face, and screeched in terror.

* * *
Spillbacks confound our containment strategies. In theory, we can tame pathogens that prey exclusively on Homo sapiens. . . .  But once a pathogen spills back from humans into wild animals, those options slip away, for we have even less control over the behavior of nonhuman animals than we do over our fellow humans.

* * *

Pathogens that rely on social contact often evolve toward lower virulence as a trade-off for greater transmissibility, but spillback allows them to escape that virtuous circle, with potentially devastating consequences.

Saif said the coronaviruses that preceded Covid-19 dynamically cycled through species, including sparrows, pigeons, bats, pigs, alpacas, cows, chickens, chimpanzees, dogs, cats and humans, in a dizzying history stretching back centuries. The eruptions she described were much more than human pandemics. They were multispecies events. The Covid-19 pandemic may become one, too. Perhaps it already is.
January 20, 2022 Updated January 22, 2022- New York Times:  A South African study of infected zoo lions spurs worries about the virus spreading in the wild.  By Lynsey Chutel

JOHANNESBURG — Lions at a South African zoo that caught the coronavirus from their handlers were sick for more than three weeks and continued to test positive for up to seven weeks, according to a new study that raised concerns about the virus spreading among animals in the wild.

* * * *
Scientists warn that “spillback” infections of humans infecting animals — as have occurred with mink, deer and domestic cats — could ravage whole ecosystems in the wild.
January 25, 2022- The Hill: Kim Iversen: Did Omicron Come From RATS? Can’t Vax Our Way Out Of Pandemic When ANIMALS Spread Covid

Omicron may have originated in rats. . .what about the otters that have found to be infected, and hippos, what about the rats?. . . Viruses . . . that infect other animals, we’ve been unable to eradicate. . .people slaughtering animals. .  Even Australia; they put down the dogs, but they also put down a bunch of hamsters; people were adopting hamsters. They found out there was Covid outbreak where they bought the hamsters. The Australian government actually ordered everyone to bring their hamsters back to be terminated.  
February 3, 2022= New York Times: In New York City Sewage, a Mysterious Coronavirus Signal- For the past year, scientists have been looking for the source of strange coronavirus sequences that have appeared in the city’s wastewater. By Emily Anthes

Last January, a team of researchers searching for the coronavirus in New York City’s wastewater spotted something strange in their samples. The viral fragments they found had a unique constellation of mutations that had never been reported before in human patients — a potential sign of a new, previously undetected variant.

For the past year, these oddball sequences, or what the scientists call “cryptic lineages,” have continued to pop up in the city’s wastewater.

researchers . .  some . . suspect that the lineages may be coming from virus-infected animals, possibly the city’s enormous population of rats.

“To date we have not seen these variants among clinical patients in N.Y.C.,” said Michael Lanza, a spokesman for New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have found similar sequences in one California sewershed. . .

* * *
Laboratory experiments suggest that these lineages may also be able to evade some antibodies.

* * *
“To have something in a sewershed that you’re detecting, you need a fair bit of it around,” said Dr. Adam Lauring, a virologist at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the research.

Dr. Johnson, the Missouri virologist, agrees. He favors the hypothesis that the sequences are coming from animals . . .

* * *
The researchers initially considered a diverse array of potential hosts, from squirrels to skunks. “This is a very promiscuous virus,” Dr. Johnson said. “It can infect all kinds of species.”

* * *

Dr. Johnson has been considering rats, which roam the city by the millions.

* * *
Scientists have repeatedly found that humans can pass the virus to animals, especially pets, zoo animals, farmed mink and others with which they are in frequent contact. That has raised concerns that the virus might establish itself in an animal reservoir, where it might mutate and get passed back to humans.

See also, from the prior day February 3, 2022: New York Times Guest Essay- The Clues to the Next Variant Surge Are All Around Us- . . there are places to look that may help scientists find new variants even faster: sewage and the air.

1 comment:

  1. I got to WhiteMdd twitter and here pretty handily, but otherwise I felt compelled recently to look up 'backlighting' from the obvious interaction that goes on between my online searches and essays offered me by my academia edu account. I was minded to say as how in the July 29 NY Times is a piece by Annie Karni and Katie Rogers laying into Trump's handling of Coronavirus, assigning his faults to his father-s 'legacy' of belittling feelings of empathy for those suffering as losers in the economy. Now as I understand our President favors the opinions of a Houston-based m.d., Stella Immanuel, who disdains masks and upholds belief in incubi and succubi, in women falling victim to astrally projected spirits of men or demons that lust after them, and in the use of DNA from extraterrestrials to come up with a vaccine against religion. Finally his one time friend Steven Calabresi at the Federalist Society calls for a secondary impeachment proceedings for having wished to not have election in November. Maybe what the old boy needs is restful retirement.