Viticus Group Blog

To Test or Not to Test?: COVID-19 Testing for Animals and Humans

Posted by Abby Crimm

In the latest Facebook Live event, Viticus Group brought together Dr. Jennifer Ogeer, Dr. Peter Weinstein, and Dr. William Schaffner to provide updates on COVID-19 testing. 

As COVID-19 and antibody testing becomes more reliable and accessible, questions of when to test, how routine testing should be, and how testing will be used in the future naturally arise. Luckily, we interviewed just the right people to help answer those questions.

Testing Pets for COVID-19

When it comes to testing animals for COVID-19, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Antech Dr. Jennifer Ogeer says that routine testing isn’t a good idea. Testing is not very useful because (1) COVID-19 in pets is so rare (in just one Antech study with 2500 animals, only 2 tested positive), (2) there is no evidence of transmission between animals or from animals to humans, (3) the symptoms are mild, and (4) all pets who have tested positive have recovered.

When you have a patient that displays COVID-like symptoms, Dr. Ogeer suggests first checking for common diseases. If needed, you can contact your local public health officials and they will determine whether to test.

The big takeaway is not to worry too much about COVID-19 in pets and not for pet owners to worry for the reasons listed above. Animals are safe from being seriously affected by the virus, so you can take more precautions for yourself, your family, and your teammates.

Testing for COVID-19 in the Practice

So, let’s say a team member starts showing symptoms. What then?

First of all, Dr. Peter Weinstein says that communication with your team should have started before anyone gets infected. Everyone should understand the protocol—what will happen if they get sick either on the job or outside of the practice. When you should be sent home or stay home and that they’ll be compensated for the time they spend sick at home.

Testing will depend on the severity of symptoms and accessibility. We must use common sense along with caution. It would do no good to go to the doctor’s office for testing when symptoms are mild. Practices should not mandate that employees are tested, but the whole team should work to reduce the risk of infection.

Testing Humans for COVID-19

Dr. William Schaffner is a professor of preventive medicine in the Department of Health Policy as well as a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.            

Dr. Schaffner explains that expanded testing for the virus has been primarily focused on congregate living systems like nursing homes and prisons. Healthcare workers who have been exposed at work also have greater access to tests.

In the world of antibody testing, we now have newer ones that are much more reliable. We think (emphasis on “think”) that if someone has been exposed and has antibodies, they would be immune to getting the virus again. We don’t know how long that immunity would last. The hope is that we can create antibodies in a lab to inject sick people with so we don’t have to just rely on plasma donations.

For all the worried parents out there, children have been relatively unaffected by this virus. We don’t know why.

However, Dr. Schaffner mentions that we have seen increases in something called multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children post-COVID-19. Unfortunately, it’s a dramatic and frightening syndrome with symptoms like rashes, red eyes, abdominal pain, fever, difficulty in oxygenation. Before you hyperventilate on me, here’s the good news: all children who have had multi-system inflammatory syndrome have survived and fully recovered.

Dr. Schaffner’s opinion is that most schools and other activities will be open and functioning in the fall. This means that more frequent testing and other social distancing measures will come into play at that time. Organizations like universities and professional sports leagues are considering a testing component to their reopening, making testing a big part of our future post-pandemic.

Learn More!

Visit Viticus Group's COVID-19 in Veterinary Practice webpage to get more news, updates, resources, and blogs about the novel virus.

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