STAY SAFE, WASH YOUR HANDS, MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCING
U.K. GOVERNMENT ADVICE: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
I keep hearing Coronavirus, COVID-19 and SARS-CoV2, what is the difference?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that usually cause mild to moderate respiratory symptoms like ‘flu’ and the common cold.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome2 or SARS-CoV2 is the latest identified virus in the family of coronaviruses which causes the disease COVID-19
Different but similar viruses caused the outbreaks of SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2003 and 2012.
How do we catch COVID-19?
By eating infected animals.
Person to Person. The virus spreads through exhaled droplets from an infected person that enter our body through the mouth and nose and eyes.
Contact with contaminated surfaces. The virus survives longer on smooth hard surfaces like door handles etc.
Possibly through contact with contaminated faeces. This is not proven yet but evidence is growing that this may be a possible route of transmission from other humans. There is no evidence yet of faecal-oral transmission from animals.
Does my cat and other domestic animals represent a risk with COVID-19?
Currently, there have been some reported cases in felines but there is no evidence that domestic pets can become sick. International experts say there is no evidence that domestic pets can be the source of COVID-19 or spread the disease to humans. However, as many diseases are known to spread between animals and humans it is a wise precaution to always wash your hands after handling pets.
What about the positive Tiger in Bronx Zoo USA?
A Tiger at Bronx Zoo tested positive to the human COVID-19 in April 2020 after it showed some signs of respiratory illness. There appears to be no spread to other animals and the Tiger is thought to have caught the infection from a keeper who was shedding the virus. It is recommended that anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should avoid contact with other humans and animals.
Can Great Apes be infected with COVID-19?
Probably yes. No studies have been undertaken yet so we do not know conclusively.
The coronavirus which causes COVID-19 enters cells via receptors in humans known as ACE2 and it is known that all apes including chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans and all African and Asian monkeys possess these same ACE2 receptors. We, therefore, have to assume that all orangutan and other Great Apes are highly susceptible.
Are orangutan rescue centres closed?
Yes, currently almost all the rescue and rehabilitation centres are closed to the public and volunteers. Field research has stopped and most organisations are restricting their monitoring teams to essential efforts only. All the centres are taking rigorous precautions to protect both staff and the orangutan, minimising workers and stopping routine handling, non-urgent health checks etc. There is great concern that the virus might cause serious illness and deaths if it enters the already critically endangered orangutan population.
How long will centres remain closed?
We do not know. Our knowledge of the disease in humans is still developing on a daily basis and we do not know ourselves when it will be ‘safe’ to increase contact with others. The susceptibility and understanding of the disease in wildlife will take much longer so the sensible current advice from International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is that all eco-tourism should be halted until further notice.
How do you test for COVID-19 in animals?
Some pets have tested positive for COVID-19 and whilst specific PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) laboratory tests have been developed for some species these have not yet been validated in wildlife.
Although orangutans are very similar to humans genetically, tests (and vaccines) developed for humans may not work in orangutan. This lack of accurate diagnosis and testing is why there is concern at all the orangutan rescue centres.
Are any orangutan being tested?
There are no current validated tests for orangutan so currently they are not being routinely tested.
We hope that these facts will help aid your understanding of the disease.
Please obey all guidelines and keep yourself and your families safe.
Orangutan Veterinary Aid October 2020