Practitioner advice regarding COVID-19 and ferrets
Tuesday, 31 March 2020
We are aware of the current shortages of PPE and realise the difficulties many practitioners are facing.
There is no current evidence of infection of humans from domestic animals, either in the SARS-CoV-1 outbreaks or this current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
Given the evidence of experimental clinical infection in Ferrets with SARS-CoV-1 we do suggest extra caution be taken in this species if they have been exposed to an infected owner.
Based on the information available, we advise practitioners seeing ferrets to take a precautionary approach which would include:
- Taking a thorough history of exposure before you examine any ferret to determine risk:
- Are they from a household under quarantine or self-isolation?
- Has the ferret been exposed to a person with a diagnosed infection or known clinical signs of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, sore throat)?
- What level of contact with a COVID-19 patient has the ferret had (e.g. close, or in the same house but maintaining distancing)?
- If a ferret has been in known contact with a COVID-19 human patient, treat them as you would if concerned about possible influenza, especially a ferret with respiratory signs.
- Being mindful of PPE shortages within medical facilities treating COVID-19 patients and veterinary clinics, we ideally recommend:
- Wearing PPE - surgical mask with eye protection, gloves and apron/gown. This is in line with current WHO IPC recommendations for COVID-19 where there is no aerosol generation during the procedure.
- Limiting contact with the ferret and avoiding close contact where possible
- Appropriate hand hygiene before and after handling the animal
- Disinfection of table as well as other surfaces that may have been contaminated
Please advise owners in quarantine/self-isolation to:
- keep their ferret’s welfare front of mind
- minimise contact with their ferrets
- maintain good hand hygiene before and after handling them and their food, food bowls and water bowls.
If possible, people who are sick or under medical attention for COVID-19 infection should avoid close contact with their pet ferrets and have another member of their household care for their ferrets. All ferret carers, in potentially infected households should maintain good hygiene practices and minimise contact with ferrets during this time.
Please note that this is an evolving situation. Advice provided here is reflective of the evidence at hand. This document will be updated as required. For the most up-to-date advice on the COVID-19 situation in Australia, visit health.gov.au 2