We will not get infected with SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus from pets – Puls Medycyny

Pets not only do not transmit the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, but also have a positive impact on our health. Thanks to them, dog and cat owners gain cross-resistance and are more resistant to infectious diseases. Dorota Sumińska, a veterinarian, and Tomasz Wróblewski, an internist specializing in emergency medicine, talk about it in an interview with “Puls Medycyny”.

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Since the start of the coronavirus epidemic in Poland, workers at animal shelters and veterinary clinics have been alarming that people are losing their dogs and cats in panic. They are afraid that the animals will infect them. And while the World Health Organization (WHO) has given the message that dogs and cats pose no threat to our health, many people throw their pets away “just in case”. GPs are inundated with calls from patients, whether domestic dogs and cats can infect them, or whether children and the elderly should be isolated.

Dorota Sumińska: I endorse the WHO announcement. The animals that accompany us are by no means a threat. They don’t get COVID-19 and they don’t actively or passively transmit SARS-CoV-2. In addition, friendly contact with animals can protect us not only from the coronavirus, but also from many other infectious diseases. All microorganisms form something like families, so some of their groups are related, similar in terms of their antigenic structure. In turn, the immune system of any mammal, including humans, has a large number of cells that specialize in various defensive actions. However, in order to use it, he must constantly gain new experiences.

How does it work?

DS: There’s the only effective way to do this – interacting with the world’s diversity of microorganisms. The lack of this contact lowers the vigilance of the immune system, which in turn prevents it from responding properly when an enemy knocks on the body. Known vaccines are used here. Like many other human discoveries, the vaccine is just an imitation of natural processes – the body’s ability to produce immunity against a particular microorganism. Thanks to natural “vaccinations”, we and thousands of other animal species can count on a healthy life. People used to wonder why dairy women didn’t get sick from smallpox, which decimated the human population. It got to the point where they were easy to spot because of their smooth complexion, while smallpox healers wore their marks on their faces, the so-called “smallpox beaks”. Today there is no wonder: cowpox is the “cousin” of the smallpox virus. The dairies’ immune systems had a chance to know the enemy of cows and arm themselves when faced with a real enemy. We call this phenomenon cross-resistance, and we encounter it much more often than we suspect. The second flagship example is the measles virus and the distemper virus – they are also “cousins”. Human contact with the distemper virus immunizes him against measles. Conversely, a dog exposed to the measles virus can protect itself from distemper. So friendly proximity to a dog, cat, cow or other department can arm us with the most important weapon for life: resistance to infectious diseases.

A few years ago my bitch was sick with the coronavirus. She flew out of my hands, I feared for her life. Thanks to the correct diagnosis and treatment, she recovered quickly. It was clearly a different type of coronavirus, not SARS-CoV-2. However, does this mean that my family and I are naturally vaccinated against the entire family of coronaviruses? Do we have more resistance to them?

DS: SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus from the point of view of human medicine. There are currently no studies confirming that contact with other coronaviruses confers complete or even residual immunity to them. However, it can be assumed with high probability that this is the case.

How should pet owners who are healthy and at low risk behave during a pandemic – haven’t traveled abroad, been in contact with people who have been abroad, don’t know anyone who has contracted the coronavirus?

DS: According to the basic rules of hygiene, so “normal”. They should avoid contact with people, not animals.

What about the elderly, immunocompromised people, who suffer from chronic diseases? If someone has a dog or several dogs and lives in an apartment building…

DS: You have to help such people to walk dogs and of course to fulfill other needs in life.

Can a person diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infect their dog or cat? If he lived alone and was taken to an infectious disease hospital, can his family or neighbors care for a pet? Do you need to do tests in the clinic?

DS: A dog and a cat cannot get infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus from humans and get sick with the disease COVID-19. Basic decency is to take care of an animal whose caretaker ends up in the hospital. There is not the slightest reason to fear that a dog or cat will transmit a viral infection to us. Of course, we should not immediately jump into his bed after entering the patient’s apartment or drink water from a glass on the bedside table.

Let’s not forget that no microorganism is eternal. Its survival outside the body rarely lasts more than a few hours or days. For coronaviruses, these are hours. Although recent studies show that SARS-CoV-2 can survive outside the living organism for up to 9 days, it must be stored under very favorable conditions. It’s hard to imagine he’d find something like this outside the lab. In addition, to become infected, you need a sufficiently large exposure to the microorganism. One virus or bacteria is not enough, there must be many. The coronavirus, which is dangerous for us, is not excreted through the skin and does not penetrate through it. Most virions can be found in the throat, nose and airways of a sick person. So he should spit or brand the dog and we should transfer him into our own mucous membranes as soon as possible. Of course, if we wanted to get infected. But not from the dog, but from the one who spat.

What diseases can a person infect his dog and cat with? Are flu, angina, sinusitis and other illnesses typical of winter and spring dangerous for our pets? Or does a runny nose spread from person to dog and cat and vice versa, from dog to cat to person?

DS: All the diseases that we can get from animals are called zoonoses. Compared to the diseases that attack humans, there are few of them within our species. The most famous is rabies. The virus does not disguise itself and affects almost all warm-blooded animals, including humans. However, in his case, it is very difficult to get infected. The same goes for the so-called pseudorabies, or Aujeszky’s disease, almost unheard of in companion animals today. It is caused by herpes, a virus that plagues pigs.

There are also bacterial diseases that we can share with dogs and cats, but today most of them are as rare as the Lotto jackpot. In theory, any virus and bacteria can pass from one species to another. It happens quite often, but we don’t even know it, because we have a miscarriage, an asymptomatic infection, thanks to an efficient immune system. Otherwise, everything living on Earth would die of infection. The best example is the protozoan disease – toxoplasmosis. The sowers in the area are all felines, but human infection does not result from contact with the cat. Raw meat gourmets are sick, and I think that’s a well-deserved punishment. However, the bodies of their smaller brothers are consumed by billions of people, and only a small percentage are sick.

However, there are many diseases that do not ignore the diversity of species, such as mycoses. We can share them with almost all animal species and vice versa. We can, but we don’t always share. As with other microbial diseases, it depends on the efficiency of the immune system.

As for a runny nose, angina or the so-called cold, it is not excluded that our dog or cat may become infected. It depends on the type of microorganism and the efficiency of the animal’s immune system. Let’s not forget that it depends a lot on the mental state. Any severe stress “disarms” dogs, cats, and human defenses. That’s why we get a runny nose and a sore throat after a failed business meeting, a failed exam, or some other serious failure. The same goes for animals. Under stress it is much easier to develop various, not only contagious, ailments.

As a human doctor, do you confirm the opinion that the presence of a dog and a cat in the house strengthens the human immune system?

Tomasz Wróblewski: Absolutely yes.

Many times described cases of people who lost their four-legged friend, after which the immunity of their body decreased significantly, they developed chronic infections. There are also cases of people who have been ill in the past and since they have a dog or cat they have become more resistant and healthier.

TW: Which just confirms Dorota’s comments above. Contact with animals, sleeping with them, kissing them, not only poses no threat, but really strengthens our immune system.

Is it true that humans respond physiologically to the presence of animals? I’ve read that petting and cuddling a pet calms us down and lowers blood pressure, lowers blood cholesterol and triglycerides, and normalizes the number of heartbeats per minute.

TW: I think contact with any kind creature is soothing. People are not always honest about friendship. Dogs and cats always.

In the last century, Dr. Erica Friedmann of New York University conducted a series of studies examining the relationship between dog and cat ownership and heart attack survival. She showed that owners of dogs and cats are less likely to die from heart attacks and strokes, and even if they do, they recover faster than those who don’t have pets. According to her, having a hair coat reduces the risk of heart disease by as much as 4 percent.

TW: I haven’t done any such research, so I have to trust Ms. Erice. I disagree with one: 4%. it seems to me an underestimated result.

Could it be said that dogs and cats are recommended as natural antidepressants? Because they improve our well-being and mood?

TW: First of all, I would ask dogs and cats if people affect them in the same way. I don’t think the majority would say yes. That’s why I believe that having a pet in your care should be a privilege and not a cure for stress. Although it is undoubtedly.

Domestic animals can do more than weight-loss diets – because you have to take them for regular walks and run with some, for example northern breed dogs.

TW: Caring for a dear being of the heart can and will change our lives, and therefore the carcass.

Have you ever advised a patient to get a dog or a cat?

TW: To anyone who can love.

Dorota Sumińska is a veterinarian with many years of practice, a specialist in canine and feline diseases. For more than 20 years he has been popularizing knowledge about animals. She has written more than 20 books, for adults and children, and directed media educational programs (“Zwierzowiec” on TVP 1, “Confessions on Four Legs” in the 1st PR program). For years he has been playing the program “I believe in an animal” on TOK FM radio (Saturday 10 am).
Her life partner is Tomasz Wróblewski, an internist specializing in emergency medicine, working in several hospitals in and near Warsaw. In their house near Warsaw they live with a herd of dogs and cats that have been taken care of by accident.

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