Coronavirus: phone line launched for worried pet owners
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    Coronavirus: phone line launched for worried pet owners

    So far, there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted from pets to humans. Credit: Flickr/Alan Bruce

    Animal rights organisation Gaia has launched a free telephone line for anyone who has questions about animals as a result of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.

    “People now have more time for their (domestic) animals, we want to help people spend that time well. At the heart of the matter: maintaining the good relationship between humans and animals,” explained managing director Ann De Greef in a press release.

    In this uncertain period, there are a lot of questions about (domestic) animals, according to Gaia. To help face this, the organisation is answering questions ranging from are animals at the route of the outbreak, to can I walk my elderly neighbour’s dog.

    Last week, the veterinary medicine faculty in Liège reported that a coronavirus infection has been determined in a cat. The cat lived with its owner, who started showing symptoms of the virus a week before the cat did. “We want to stress that this is an isolated case. Additionally, in this case, we are talking about a human-to-animal transmission, not the other way around,” the authorities said.

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    “Animals are not vectors of the epidemic, so there is no reason to abandon your animal,” the National Council for Animal Protection (CNPA) said.

    “We also want to prevent potential animal suffering,” said Gaia. “The animal shelters are already struggling at the moment. We must avoid flooding them with dumped animals now because falsehoods – such as the transmission of the virus from animal to human – are circulating.”

    Worldwide, it has been highly exceptional for the virus to pass from human to animal. So far, only three cases where the pet has been infected by humans are known across the world. It concerns two dogs in Hong Kong, and now a cat in Belgium. However, a Belgian professor has raised questions about the interpretation of the test results. So far, there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted from pets to humans.

    The phone line can be reached on 0800 53 335, and is open every working day from 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM.

    Jules Johnston
    The Brussels Times