The headlines about the coronavirus outbreak are terrifying: thousands of people are sick. Face masks are out of stock. Quarantine orders are causing panic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) just declared a public health emergency.
Then there’s chilling news the virus can spread from animals to humans.
If you’re panicking, pondering, “Is my dog at risk of getting it? Am I at risk of getting it from my pooch? Isn’t there a canine coronavirus?”
Take a deep breath. Here’s what you need to know.
What you need to know about Coronaviruses
Scientists have identified hundreds of different coronavirus strains that can infect people and animals.
“We do not know why some of these strains can jump from animals to humans and then go from human to human,” says physician Eric Mizuno.
Some strains are the culprits behind the common cold; other strains cause serious illnesses, like SARS and MERS.
They’re all called corona because of the shape of the virus.
“If you look at the virus under an electron microscope, they have spikes that look like a crown. Corona means crown,” says Veterinarian Lori Teller, with the American Veterinary Medical Association.
This new strain is called novel coronavirus. “Novel, because it is new and not so much is known yet. A lot of work is underway to find out,” says Veterinarian Felix Toka.
Is my dog at risk of getting this newly identified coronavirus?
Experts say no.
The CDC says this new strain spreads from bats to humans, but your dog is not at risk.
“There are no known cases in dogs or even reason to suspect cases,” says Dr. Teller.
So, I can’t get it from my pooch?
“Do not panic. Your dog is not going to get this coronavirus,” Dr. Teller adds. “You won’t get it from your dog. Keep doing what you do every day, loving each other, and taking care of each other.”
Aren’t there canine coronaviruses?
Yes. But the novel strain is not related to any of the canine coronaviruses.
There are two types of specific canine only coronaviruses dogs can get. One causes gastrointestinal upset, and the other causes respiratory infection. And there is a canine coronavirus vaccination, but Dr. Teller says your pooch may not need it.
“Dogs develop an immunity at a very young age. They are protected by maternal antibodies from their mother,” says Dr. Teller
For more information about the vaccination, chat with your veterinarian.
Is there a novel vaccination for people?
Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there’s no vaccination for this newly identified coronavirus.
How can I avoid getting it?
Experts say take the same precautions you would to avoid catching a cold, wash your hands and avoid sick people.
“The biggest way these viruses are spread are not from animals but from people to people,” says Dr. Teller “We need to take precautions when interacting with wildlife but most of these are spread from person to person.”