From the week commencing 22nd February 2021 there is a legal obligation in England and Scotland to report the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in mammals. Wales and Northern Ireland also intend to introduce similar legislation shortly thereafter to make SARS-CoV-2 reportable. Amendments to the Zoonoses Order 1989 add SARS-CoV-2 to the Order making it a designated organism and its detection reportable. In England, amendments also include changes to the list of animal species for which Salmonella and Brucella must be reported to include dogs. Some additional information is required as part of reporting where the legislation applies.
There is evidence that some animals can become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19, following close contact with infected humans. Globally only a small number of cases of naturally acquired SARS-CoV-2 infections in animals have been reported, most of which had contact with infected households or people. The majority of animals where SARS-CoV-2 has been isolated are pet dogs, cats and mustelids (mink and ferrets).
To date in the UK, there has been one historical infection confirmed in a cat from a household which had Covid-19 infected humans. The cat had been co-infected with another respiratory virus but has now made a full recovery and there was no transmission to other cats in the household. Currently there is no evidence to suggest that pet animals infected by humans are playing a significant role in the epidemiology of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Outbreaks of COVID-19 in humans are currently driven by person-to-person transmission.
Any positive SARS-CoV-2 result in England can be reported via Defra’s Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. For Scotland reporting is via the local Field Services Office. To report in Wales, contact 0300 303 8268 and for Northern Ireland contact DAERA on 0300 200 7840 / 0300 2007852 or your local Divisional Veterinary Office. Under professional obligations there is a continuing requirement to report positive results pending legislation across all UK countries.
For further information on COVID-19 and testing in pets, please see previous BSAVA news articles here and BSAVA’s dedicated COVID-19 veterinary resources available here which include BSAVA’s Guide to Testing Small Animals for COVID-19 here.
For advice to clients and pet owners on COVID-19, please find information on BSAVA’s dedicated COVID-19 website here.
The changes to the Zoonoses Order 1989 also include an amendment in England to add dogs to the list of animals for which detection of Brucella is reportable. Laboratories will now be required to inform APHA of positive results from detection of Brucella canis, or any other species of Brucella if it is detected in a sample from a dog. During 2020 APHA and Public Health protection bodies (PHE, PHW and PHS) have addressed ten incidents of B. canis in dogs, nine associated with imported dogs and one at a breeding establishment.
Reporting B canis in England can be done via local APHA VICs a list of which is available here. Both detection of the organism and indirect detection of B canis by serology should be reported.
The changes to the Zoonoses Order 1989 for England also amends the list of animals for which Salmonella is reportable by adding dogs. There are already voluntary reports about Salmonella in dogs and links to human illness. A number of the voluntary samples previously received from dogs have been unusual isolates with high multi-drug resistance, which are of concern from an antimicrobial resistance perspective for both animal and human health. Making all cases reportable is intended to improve protection of public health. There will now be a requirement for laboratories to inform APHA about Salmonella if it is diagnosed based on a sample from a dog.
Cases of Salmonella in dogs are intended to be reported using the existing Salmonella reporting procedure. Any queries should be made via the mailbox: firstname.lastname@example.org
Information required to be reported
In addition to existing information already legally required to be reported, the requirement to provide the name and address of the keeper or owner of the animal is a new requirement that must be included. This is to ensure that the details of the keeper of the animal is captured if the sample is taken at another location.