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COVID-19
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June 8, 2020


To: Veterinarians considering SARS-CoV2 infection in patients

Subject: SARS-CoV-2 (causative agent for human CoVID-19) Testing in Animals


This document describes procedures and criteria for testing pets, livestock, and other animals for SARS-CoV-2, the viral agent of the COVID-19 outbreak. These protocols have been jointly developed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Animal Health Branch (AHB) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Veterinary Public Health Section (VPHS) to guide veterinarians considering SARS-CoV-2 infection in patients. These protocols are consistent with the positions of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). At this time, the available empirical evidence does not support animals as a source of SARS-CoV-2 infection for humans. Therefore, testing animals for SARS-CoV-2 should be conducted only under specified circumstances, as outlined below.

Animal Testing Guidance:

  • Routine testing of animals for SARS-CoV-2 is not informative or recommended (see references below)
  • Consider testing under the following circumstances.
    • When the animal has current signs of clinical illness, including a documented fever, for which other causes have been ruled out and one of the following occur.

      • The animal had direct contact with a symptomatic suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case-patient in the two (2) weeks preceding the animal's onset of illness; 
      • The animal had exposure to a known high-risk environment where a human COVID-19 outbreak occurred, such as a skilled nursing facility, prison, cruise ship, or other congregate setting; or
      • The animal is from a mass care or group setting, such as an animal shelter or boarding facility, where its exposure history to people with COVID-19 is unknown and there is a cluster of animals showing clinical signs; or
      • With or without clinical signs, a threatened, endangered, or otherwise imperiled/rare animal in a rehabilitation or zoological facility with possible exposure to SARS-CoV-2 through an infected person or animal.
    • When in the opinion of local, state, or federal public and animal health authorities, the animal presents a unique opportunity to gain further insight into SARS-CoV-2 epidemiology.

    • To confirm presumptive positive results at a State of Federal laboratory for presumptive positive tests conducted at private, academic, or other unofficial laboratories.

      • Laboratories and submitting veterinarians should report results to the CA Animal Testing Coordination Team (ATCT) within one (1) working day to coordinate confirmatory testing.
      • Duplicate samples must be taken to confirm results at the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL). COVID-19 is an OIE notifiable disease, and presumptive positive results require confirmation by the USDA NVSL.
    • Any animal for which official testing yields a positive result will be subject to isolation and management under the direction of the local, state, or federal public and animal health officials.
    • Members of the public or licensed wildlife rehabilitators should contact the ATCT via the above email about potential cases in native and exotic wildlife species that may warrant testing.
    • Veterinarians who wish to discuss possible testing for a patient under their care should contact the CDPH/CDFA COVID-19 veterinary/animal health team.

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