Evaluation for SARS-CoV-2 Testing in Animals

This guidance is intended to guide decisions and help prioritize situations that may warrant SARS-CoV-2 testing in mammalian animal species given limited resources. The decision to test an animal, including companion animals, livestock, and wild or zoo animals, should be made collaboratively using a One Health approach between local, state, and/or federal public health and animal health officials. Animal testing for SARS-CoV-2 is available if public health and animal health officials agree the animal’s case merits testing. Table 1 (below) is not intended to be prescriptive, but is rather intended to help guide priorities given limited resources. Routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is not recommended. Confirmatory testing through USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) is not currently available for non-mammalian animals including reptiles, amphibians, birds, or fish.

Currently, there is no evidence that animals can transmit this virus to people. In some rare situations, people have spread this virus to certain types of animals. Veterinarians are strongly encouraged to rule out other, more common causes of illness in animals before SARS-CoV-2 testing. To discuss testing an animal for SARS-CoV-2 in certain circumstances, veterinarians should contact their state public health veterinarianpdf icon1 or designated state official responsible for animal-related issues in public health; and/or their state animal health officialexternal icon2.

Limited information is currently available to characterize SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals; please visit CDC’s COVID-19 and Animals page for the most up-to-date information. Clinical criteria for considering testing for SARS-CoV-2 in animals is based on what is currently known about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 and is subject to change as additional information becomes available.

Human patients with COVID-19 have symptoms that appear 2-14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The clinical spectrum of SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals is currently unknown, but animals may present with a combination of respiratory symptoms or gastrointestinal illness based on presentation in a small number of animals and what is known about other coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-13. Veterinarians should use their best judgment to determine if an animal has been exposed to people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and if the animal has clinical signs compatible with SARS-CoV-2 infection3. Table 1 describes epidemiological risk factors and clinical features that can help guide decisions regarding animal testing.

If public health and animal health2 officials determine that testing an animal for SARS-CoV-2 is appropriate, coordination between One Health partners will be needed. Please refer to USDA’s FAQsexternal icon for sample collection, transport, storage, and result reporting. If samples are sent to state animal health, university, or private laboratories for initial testing, duplicate samples should be collected because any positive samples must be confirmed through additional testing by NVSL. USDA is responsible for reporting any animal that tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the United States to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)external icon.

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