The Wuhan coronavirus has been making the news as of late 2019, and it continues to make headlines as we continue into 2020. The live map indicates that nearly ten thousand people are confirmed cases of the virus, with countless others still unconfirmed. The current statistics weigh in with a total of over 200 deaths, yet over 200 have also recovered from the illness. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a public health emergency. Amidst the panic, another bit of concerning news has arisen: the virus can spread from animals to humans. Before you join the rest of the world in mass hysteria, let’s talk about what the coronavirus is and isn’t.
There are hundreds of coronavirus strains that have been identified by scientists. The virus can infect both humans and animals; this much is true. The virus gets its name from its shape: “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. Coronaviruses aren’t a new phenomenon; some strains are familiar to us because they cause the common cold, yet others can cause more serious illnesses like SARS.
The strain of concern right now is called the novel coronavirus. It’s called such because scientists are still trying to understand it, but not much is known about it yet. This particular strain reportedly came from bats, and while researchers have not yet pinpointed the origin of the strain, it raises the concern that people’s pets could be infected.
Rest assured, the experts say that there is no risk of your dog contracting this newly identified strain of coronavirus. Similarly, you won’t catch this from your pooch. While there are canine coronaviruses, the novel strain is not related to any of them.
There currently isn’t a vaccination for this newly-identified virus, but the best course of action right now is to prevent the virus from spreading. According to Dr. Teller, “The biggest way these viruses are spread are not from animals but from people to people.” Medical professionals suggest taking the same precautions as you would to avoid catching the cold, which means washing your hands thoroughly and limiting your contact with people that are ill.