Due to the chaos and uncertainty of the pandemic, it’s normal to have questions about how viruses can be transmitted between humans and different species of animals. We’ve all heard the story of how the virus was spread from a bat at a wet market in Wuhan, China. Because none of us at Beck & Bulow are scientists or physicians, we are not qualified to give any medical advice. We have been gathering research from reliable sources regarding whether there is a risk of contracting COVID-19 from consuming chicken. We are sharing this information so that those interested can draw their own conclusions.
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According to the studies that have been conducted so far, it seems that certain animals are susceptible to contracting COVID-19 while others are not. There have been a few cases of pet owners reporting infections in their cats and dogs. However, the numbers are so minuscule that there is not strong evidence for pets being carriers of the virus. There was one case on national news where a tiger was thought to have contracted the virus after its handler tested positive. The big cat showed symptoms including a dry cough and loss of appetite.
Scientists at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China found that it is possible for cats and ferrets to contract the virus when infected particles are introduced through the nose. The research also showed that cats are capable of infecting one another through respiratory droplets. Cats who are infected test positive for the virus in the nose, throat and small intestine. Infected kittens experience more severe symptoms, with internal lesions forming in the respiratory tract. Ferrets, on the other hand, tested positive for the virus but experienced no symptoms.
Studies where antibody tests were performed showed that dogs were not likely to contract the virus. The animals that demonstrated complete immunity to the virus when inoculated were pigs, chickens and ducks. Why are cats so susceptible while most other animals have low or no risk of contracting COVID-19? No one really knows the answer. According to Daniel Kuritzkes, a specialist at the department of infectious disease in Boston at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “It’s both interesting and not terribly surprising in the sense that with the original SARS epidemic, civet cats were implicated as one of the vectors that may have transmitted the virus to humans.”
Epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove from the World Health Organization reported, “We don’t believe that they [cats] are playing a role in transmission but we think that they may be able to be infected from an infected person.” In the same vein, Kuritzkes said, “What these data do provide is support for the recommendation that people who are with COVID-19 should be distancing themselves, not only from other household members but also from their household pets, particularly to cats or other felines.”
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Eric Fevre is a renowned professor of veterinary infectious diseases at the University of Liverpool. He also works at the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya. He says that there is no evidence at this time to suggest that humans can contract COVID-19 from cats. His expert opinion was requested by Tanzanian dairy industry workers, concerned that the virus could be passed between humans and dairy cows. Fevre assured that domestic livestock are extremely unlikely to pose a COVID-19 risk. He says, “From a farming perspective, there don’t seem to be any anthropo-zoonotic cases despite the fact it came from animals originally.”
Study results published in May by German scientists at the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut reported, “Under experimental conditions, neither pigs nor chickens were found to be susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2.” For those of us unfamiliar with the lingo, SARS-CoV-2 is the virus which causes COVID-19. In order for SARS-CoV-2 to be transmitted, the cell surface proteins of the virus itself must match the cell surface proteins in the respiratory tract of the animal. The virus is unable to jump between species when these surfaces are different. SARS-CoV-2 was able to jump from bats to humans by successfully mutating. However, experts say that there’s no reason to believe that will happen again at this time.
At Beck & Bulow, we’re relieved to see that current research suggests there is no risk of contracting COVID-19 from chickens. Although there’s no evidence to suggest that animals are playing a role in spreading the virus to humans, the World Health Organization and World Organisation for Animal Health have outlined hygiene practices in order to practice maximum caution. We are proud to offer the highest quality chicken from a local New Mexico farm where these precautions are diligently followed. Since our chicken comes from a small farm where the animals have lots of space, overcrowding is not an issue and cleanliness is always maintained. We are here to support your health and wellness during this time by supplying the absolute best meat available.