COVID-19 AVA Working Group update

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Friday, 24 April 2020

Advice from the AVA to pet owners: COVID-19

The COVID-19 Working Group has put together a fact sheet for pet owners on COVID-19.

Key points:

  1. There is currently no evidence you can get COVID-19 from your pet.

  2. Keep your pets with you in your family unit.

  3. Plan for the care of your pets in case you need to go to hospital

  4. Continue to practice good hand hygiene before and after handling your pet, their food and their food and water bowls.

  5. Review advice from your veterinary clinic before you visit. Follow their instructions to keep your family and veterinary staff safe from COVID-19.

Access and download the fact sheet here.

Policy statement on COVID-19 diagnostic testing and surveillance in animals – Animal Health Committee

The Animal Health Committee (AHC) updated their policy statement on COVID-19 diagnostic testing and surveillance in animals on the 22 April. This is relevant as there are some commercial entities that have developed tests for SARS-CoV-2 in animals. Statement is as follows:

"The World Organisation for Animal Health advises that currently there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19. The current spread of COVID-19 is driven by human to human transmission. There have been no reports of the virus in domestic animals or wildlife in Australia.

AHC is aware that commercial entities have developed tests for SARS-CoV-2 in animals. Diagnostic testing and surveillance in Australian animals for COVID-19 is only recommended on the advice of human and animal health authorities. If testing is required, it should be undertaken at the CSIRO Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (the former Australian Animal Health Laboratory).

Animal owners/handlers should continue to implement good hygiene and farm biosecurity practices where animals are kept, including washing their hands before and after contact with animals.

People who are sick or under medical attention for COVID-19 should avoid or minimise close contact with animals as a precaution.

This policy statement will be reviewed and updated as further information comes to hand."

You can keep up to date with AHC information on their web page here.

Essential Services Guidance document

As you are aware, the AVA lobbied for the veterinary profession to be recognised as an essential service in the context of the COVID-19 shutdowns, and this resulted in a statement on the 27 March by the Federal Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud MP that: The Federal Government considers the role of veterinarians essential to the agricultural sector and therefore to our nation’s food security but also in protecting companion animals and our nation’s wildlife.

Several state veterinary boards have also made similar statements since that time.

Following on from this, the AVA was asked by members and stakeholders to provide guidance on which procedures would be considered “essential” and which should potentially be postponed. A draft guidance document was developed with input from SIG members of the COVID-19 Working Group. We placed the draft document on the closed member forum for comment, in the same way we consult on draft AVA policies. Thank you to those members who provided their feedback. Given the range of views expressed, including those which were opposed to release of such a document, the AVA Board decided not to release this document.

Instead, the AVA would like to refer veterinarians to their state veterinary boards for any state-specific guidelines. You can view links to these on our COVID-19 FAQ page here.

COVID-19 Working Group

The AVA COVID-19 Working Group is Chaired by the AVA President, and is made up of the AVPH (public health) President, Committee and Board liaison member, as well as members from ASAV, VBG, ACV, EVA, AVBIG, AVAWE, AVCB, APV, VERA, and advocacy staff. We also have advisors from the Department of Agriculture Water and the Environment, Wildlife Health Australia and the Animal Health Committee.

The Working Group has produced numerous resources giving guidance to veterinarians on how to minimise risk of infection and safely manage their businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. These resources are regularly updated and can be accessed on the AVA website at the following link: https://www.ava.com.au/coronavirus/

We are enormously grateful to our volunteer members and advisors for their hard work and expertise.

Melanie Latter
Head of Policy and Advocacy 

Julia Crawford
AVA President

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) info hub

Latest updates and communications from the AVA on the unfolding COVID-19 situation.

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