COVID-19

In a few months the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our communities and ways of life. With devastating effects on society in nearly all countries of the globe, it has also heavily challenged our food supply chains, livelihoods, economies as well as animal production systems. All these components are intrinsically linked. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a new evidence that a longstanding and sustainable One Health collaboration is needed.

In a few months the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our communities and ways of life. With devastating effects on society in nearly all countries of the globe, it has also heavily challenged our food supply chains, livelihoods, economies as well as animal production systems. All these components are intrinsically linked.

The unprecedented nature of this pandemic and the mysteries around this new virus have required innovative approaches to tackle it. At a time when much uncertainty remains and much work still needs to be undertaken to understand how the virus emerged and entered the human population, one certainty abides: collaboration across sectors is key to respond to this crisis.

The OIE has been intensively working with its network of experts and liaising closely with its Members to better understand the virus and its emergence and to enhance the capacity of countries to respond to this multifaceted crisis. The activities of Veterinary Services contribute to addressing critical needs, such as food supply, which are heavily challenged in the current circumstances. In these times where solidarity is more important than ever, Veterinary Services have also been supporting the response capacity of human health services in various ways.


A coordinated and scalable response mechanism

Through its mission to set animal health and welfare standards, to inform and to build capacity, the OIE is fully mobilised to support the work of its partners and to accompany Veterinary Services across the world to address the situation.

The OIE established an Incident Management System to coordinate its response to COVID-19 internally and with external key partners such as the World Health Organization (WHO).
Read more

What has the OIE been doing in response to COVID-19?
Interview with Dr William B. Karesh, President of the OIE Wildlife Working Group

A multisectorial approach

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a new evidence that a longstanding and sustainable One Health collaboration is needed. From the start of the crisis, existing Tripartite frameworks for emergency management have been used. The OIE has participated in the WHO’s International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and OIE experts have supported the WHO R&D blueprint, which is a global plan that allows the rapid and coordinated activation of research and development activities.

Beyond collaborative research activities, the animal health sector has contributed in various ways towards building a common response to the pandemic in the field. The veterinary profession has shown its commitment to support the work of human health authorities. Whether for the provision of testing capacity by animal health laboratories, through donating essential materials such as personal protective equipment and ventilators, or through direct provision of human resources and expertise, Veterinary Services have greatly contributed to support the international and national response to COVID-19.
Discover some examples


Planning ahead

COVID-19 has disrupted our present time so much that it has sent shockwaves into the future, creating greater fragments of uncertainty but also space for innovation. We are not quite sure what the future holds but we know that we can influence the future through active preparedness. The OIE must anticipate and prepare for challenges and opportunities to better adapt its operations and support its membership.

The OIE has been preparing for an event like COVID-19 for several years. Pandemic preparedness and biological threat reduction have been high on the agenda, leading to the establishment of mechanisms such as OFFLU (which would respond to an influenza pandemic of animal origin), a biological threat reduction strategy (supported by two global conferences) and several projects which are supporting capacity building for emergency management and improved sustainability of laboratories.

The OIE has a track record of responding to disease emergence at the human animal interface, having mobilised for H5N1 avian influenza (‘Bird Flu’); Pandemic H1N1; MERS; and H7N9 zoonotic avian influenza.

When the OIE was restructured in January 2020 to notably include foresight and a Preparedness and Resilience Department, it was to take into account global change which is reshaping our environment, in terms of climate, human behaviours and land use, for example.

The OIE will use foresight to guide its approach – an applied set of methodologies to consider possible future outcomes or “futures”. Foresight is not a means of forecasting or predicting the future. Rather it is a means of acknowledging numerous possible futures, some of which we have a hint of given information available today and allowing the opportunity to be better prepared to address a future made of multiple eventualities. Our collective will and coordinated action remain essential to ensure the OIE and our Members’ Veterinary Services contribute to a better and safer future.

[Last updated: 22 January 2021]

What causes COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the disease caused by a coronavirus (CoV) named SARS-CoV-2. They are called coronaviruses because of their characteristic ‘corona’ (crown) of spike proteins which surround their lipid envelope. Coronavirus infections are common in both animals and humans, and some strains of coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted between animals and humans.

In humans, coronaviruses can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (caused by MERS-CoV), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (caused by SARS-CoV). Detailed investigations have demonstrated that MERS-CoV was transmitted from dromedary camels to humans and SARS-CoV from civets to humans.

In 2019, a new coronavirus was identified as the causative agent of human cases of pneumonia by Chinese Authorities. Since then, human cases have been reported by almost all countries around the world and the COVID-19 outbreak has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Investigations are on-going to identify the origin of the virus and a possible animal reservoir. For up-to-date information on the human health situation  consult the WHO website.

Are animals responsible for COVID-19 cases in people?

The current pandemic is being sustained through human-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Current evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 emerged from an animal source. Genetic sequence data reveals that the closest known relative of SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus circulating in Rhinolophus bat (Horseshoe Bat) populations. However, to date, there is not enough scientific evidence to identify the source of SARS-CoV-2 or to explain the original route of transmission to humans, which may have involved an intermediate host.

Investigations led by the WHO, and in close cooperation with China, are underway to find the source, to determine how the virus entered the human population, and to establish the potential role of animals in this disease. Recent findings confirmed that infections in mink can result in spill over back into the humans. This is further discussed below.

Can animals be infected with SARS-CoV-2?

Yes, several animal species have demonstrated susceptibility to the virus through experimental infection, and in natural settings when in contact with infected humans. There is also evidence that infected animals can transmit the virus to other animals in natural settings through contact, such as mink to mink transmission, and mink to cat transmission. Infection of animals with SARS-CoV-2 has implications for animal and human health, animal welfare, wildlife conservation, and biomedical research. However, not all species appear to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. To date, findings from experimental infection studies show that poultry and cattle are not susceptible to infection. Up to date information on the susceptibility of different animal species can be found  here.

What are the implications of animal infections with SARS-CoV-2?

Although several animal species have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, these infections are not the driver of the current COVID-19 pandemic which is human-to-human transmission.

However, there are valid concerns about the establishment of SARS-CoV-2 reservoirs in wild or domestic animals, which could pose a continued public health risk and lead to future spillover events to humans. Consequently, susceptible animal populations in close contact with humans should be closely monitored. The virus introduction to a new animal species might accelerate its evolution, which could potentially impact on surveillance and control strategies. Additionally, the conservation efforts might be undermined with the introduction of the virus to susceptible endangered animal populations, leading to biodiversity loss. Further investigation is needed to fully understand these risks.

More information about the SARS-CoV-2 events in animals reported by countries to the OIE can be found here.

What do we know about SARS-CoV-2 and mink?

Farmed mink are highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and, in some cases, they have transmitted the virus back to humans. Surveillance findings in Denmark show that SARS-CoV-2 introduced into mink populations continues to evolve through viral mutation. Viral mutation also happens in human infections, but new mutations may be seen as the virus adapts to a new species. Scientific investigations have confirmed that SARS-CoV-2 infection has been reintroduced from mink to humans.

The OIE acknowledges that such events could have important public health implications. There are concerns that the introduction and circulation of new virus strains in humans could result in modifications of transmissibility or virulence and in decreased treatment and vaccine efficacy. Yet, the full consequences remain unknown, and further investigation is needed to fully understand the impact of these mutations. Read more in the OIE Statement on COVID-19 and mink.

What precautionary measures should be taken when humans suspected or confirmed to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 are in contact with animals?

As a general good practice, appropriate and effective biosecurity measures should always be applied when people have contact with groups of animals, e.g. on farms, at zoos, and in animal shelters.

People who are suspected or confirmed to be infected with the COVID-19 virus should minimise close direct contact with animals, including farm, zoo or other captive animals, and wildlife.

Companion animals

There is no evidence that companion animals are playing an epidemiological role in the spread of human infections of SARS-CoV-2. However, as animals and people can both be affected by this virus, it is recommended that people who are suspected or confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 virus avoid close contact with their companion animals and have another member of their household care for them. If they must look after their companion animals, they should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a face mask, if possible. Animals belonging to owners infected with COVID-19 virus should be kept indoors in line with similar lockdown recommendations for humans applicable in the country or area. There is no justification in taking measures which may compromise the welfare of companion animals.

As a general good practice, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented when handling and caring for animals. This includes hand washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, being licked by animals, or sharing food.

Farmed animals

Handling farmed animals susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2 can carry additional risks when large numbers of animals are kept in close contact. Risk management strategies depend on the species and the circumstances under which the animals live and are cared for. Refer to the specific OIE guidance for further recommendations.

Wildlife

A wide range of mammalian species may be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. The OIE has developed guidelines for people engaged in wildlife work in the field to minimize the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

What precautionary measures should be taken when visiting markets selling live animals, raw meat and/or animal products?

Although there is uncertainty about the origin of SARS-CoV-2, in line with WHO recommendations, general hygiene measures should be applied when visiting markets selling live animals, raw meat and/or animal products. These measures include regular hand washing with soap and potable water after touching animals and animal products, as well as avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth. Precautions should be taken to avoid contact with sick animals, spoiled animal products, other animals present in the market (e.g., stray cats and dogs, rodents, birds, bats) and animal waste or fluids on the soil or surfaces of market facilities. Standard recommendations issued by WHO to prevent spread of the infection amongst humans include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose with the elbow when coughing and sneezing and avoiding close contact with any person showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. Further recommendations from WHO can be consulted here.

As per general good food hygiene practices, raw meat, milk, or animal products should be handled with care, in particular to avoid potential cross-contamination from uncooked foods to foods which are ready to eat. Meat and meat products, and milk and milk products from healthy livestock that are prepared and served in accordance with good hygiene and food safety principles remain safe to eat.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted several practical guidelines on how to apply and implement best practices to ensure food safety, which can be consulted on the Codex website.

What can national Veterinary Services do?

Veterinary Services should work closely with Public Health authorities and those responsible for wildlife using a One Health approach to share information and cooperate in the response to COVID-19. Close collaboration between animal and public health authorities is imperative to better identify and reduce the impact of this disease.

In some countries, Veterinary Services are supporting core functions of the public health response, such as screening and testing of surveillance and diagnostic samples from humans. OIE Guidance on Veterinary Laboratory Support to the Public Health Response for COVID-19 is available here. Veterinary clinics in some countries have also supported the public health response by donating essential materials such as personal protective equipment and ventilators.

Veterinary Services should be considered as essential services. National authorities can advocate for this within COVID-19 response plans and operations, to ensure a continuum in the activities related to animal health, animal welfare and veterinary public health, under appropriate protocols.

What can Veterinary Services do to protect susceptible animals, such as mink?

Veterinary Services should protect animal health and welfare, and consequently public health, by implementing effective risk management measures to prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between humans and susceptible animals.

Monitoring susceptible animals, such as mink and racoon dogs, as well as humans in close contact with them, for SARS-CoV-2 infection is also important. Active monitoring is recommended as it might be difficult to detect early infections in these animals, especially mink.
When a person infected with COVID-19 virus reports being in contact with animals, a joint risk assessment should be conducted by Veterinary and Public Health Services. If a decision is made to test animals as a result of this risk assessment, it is recommended to use RT-PCR to test oral, nasal and/or fecal/rectal samples.  The risk assessment may also recommend to carry out a full genome sequencing of the virus isolated from animals. Measures should be taken to avoid contamination of specimens from the environment or by humans.

Animals that have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 should be kept away from unexposed susceptible animals. For further recommendations, refer to the OIE guidelines for people working with susceptible farmed animals, as well as with wild mammals in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the Veterinary Services international responsibilities in the event of positive animal cases?

The infection of animals with SARS-CoV-2 meets the OIE criteria of an emerging disease. Consequently, any [case of] infection of animals with SARS-CoV-2 should be reported through the World Animal Health Information System (WAHIS) in accordance with the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code.

Countries are also encouraged to share genetic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 viruses isolated from animals and other research findings with the global health community.

Are there any recommendations related to international movement of live animals or animal products?

Based on currently available information, and with the support of expert advisory groups, the OIE does not recommend the implementation of any COVID-19 related sanitary measure to the international movement of live animals or animal products without a justifying risk analysis.  Evidence-based risk management principles should be applied to international movement of live animals and products from species susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2. Evaluation and implementation of risk management for safe trade should follow the OIE international Standards, notably for risk analysis, disease prevention and control, trade measures, import/export procedures and veterinary certification). Precautions for packaging materials are not indicated over and above the application of sound principles of environmental sanitation, personal hygiene, and established food hygiene practices.

The report of the OIE ad hoc Group on COVID-19 and Safe Trade in Animals and Animal Products can be consulted here, and the OIE Considerations on the application of sanitary measures for international trade related to COVID-19 can be found here.

What is the OIE doing?

The OIE is in contact with its Regional Representations and Sub Regional Representations, OIE Delegates of Member Countries, the OIE Wildlife Working Group, as well as FAO and WHO, to gather and share the latest available information. The OIE is closely liaising with its network of experts involved in current investigations on the source of the disease. Rumours and unofficial information are also monitored daily.

The OIE has mobilized several expert groups (‘ad hoc groups’) to provide scientific advice on research priorities, on-going research, and other implications of COVID-19 for animal health and veterinary public health, including risk assessment, management, and communication. Several guidance documents developed by the OIE and its network of experts are available here.

An OIE Incident Coordination System is in place to coordinate these activities. Given the similarities between COVID-19 and the emergence of other zoonotic diseases at the human-animal interface, the OIE is working with its Wildlife Working Group and other partners to develop a longer term work programme which aims to better understand the dynamics and risks around wildlife trade and consumption, with a view to developing strategies to reduce the risk of future disease spillover events.

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Resources

Definition

OIE Partners related webpages

OIE Members have been keeping the OIE updated on any investigations or outcomes of investigations in animals:

Page last updated 06 September 2021

Guidance to report cases of animals infected with SARS-CoV-2 to the OIE

Situation report #1 on SARS-CoV-2 and animals (31/05/2021)
Situation report #2 on SARS-CoV-2 and animals (30/06/2021)
Situation report #3 on SARS-CoV-2 and animals (31/07/2021)
Situation report #4 on SARS-CoV-2 and animals (31/08/2021)

  • Animal surveillance in China: China update (5/02/2020).
  • Press release: OIE statement on COVID-19 and mink (12/11/2020)
MemberSpecies affectedDate of first reportLinks
ArgentinaCat and dog18/11/2020Immediate notification (18/11/2020)
Immediate notification (18/03/2021)
Puma18/02/2021Immediate notification (18/02/2021)
Follow-up report no. 1 (18/03/2021)
BelgiumCat28/03/2020Situation update 1 (28/03/2020)
Bosnia and HerzegovinaDog03/02/2021Immediate notification (03/02/2021)
BrazilCat and dog29/10/2020Follow-up report no. 4 (31/05/2021)
CanadaCat and dog28/10/2020Situation update 1 (28/10/2020)
Situation update 2 (21/12/2020)
Situation update 3 (10/02/2021)
Situation update 4 (09/04/2021)
Situation update 5 (02/06/2021)
Mink09/12/2020Follow-up report no. 8 (30/07/2021)
CroatiaCat and dog28/04/2021Follow-up report no. 2 (18/06/2021)
ChileCat22/10/2020Immediate notification (22/10/2020)
DenmarkMink17/06/2020Situation update 1 (17/06/2020)
Situation update 2 (03/07/2020)
Situation update 3 (24/08/2020)
Situation update 4 (01/10/2020)
Situation update 5 (16/10/2020)
Situation update 6 (05/11/2020)
EstoniaLion22/01/2021Situation update 1 (22/01/2021)
Immediate notification (10/02/2021)
FranceCat02/05/2020Situation update 1 (02/05/2020)
Situation update 2 (12/05/2020)
Situation update 3 (02/04/2021)
Mink25/11/2020Final report (06/01/2021)
GermanyCat and dog13/05/2020Situation update 1 (13/05/2020)
Situation update 2 (01/12/2020)
GreeceMink16/11/2020Situation update 1 (16/11/2020)
Situation update 2 (04/12/2020)
Follow-up report no. 5 (27/08/2021)
Cat23/12/2020Situation update 1 (23/12/2020)
Hong KongCat and dog21/03/2020Follow-up report no. 2 (16/03/2020)
Follow-up report no. 3 (28/03/2020)
Follow-up report no. 3 (03/09/2020)
Follow-up report no. 8 (29/01/2021)
Follow-up report n. 1 (17/02/2021)
ItalyMink30/10/2020Situation update 1 (30/10/2020)
Situation update 2 (11/11/2020)
Situation update 3 (21/11/2020)
Immediate notification (22/04/2021)
Cat09/12/2020Situation update 1 (09/12/2020)
Immediate notification (22/03/2021)
Follow-up report no. 2 (23/04/2021)
JapanCat and dog07/08/2020Situation update 1 (07/08/2020)
Follow-up report no. 4 (31/08/2021)
LatviaCat03/02/2021Follow-up report no. 2 (13/05/2021)
Mink16/04/2021Follow-up report no. 18 (31/08/2021)
LithuaniaMink30/11/2020Follow-up report no. 3 (04/08/2021)
MexicoDog15/12/2020Follow-up report no. 4 (31/05/2021)
NetherlandsMink26/04/2020First report (26/04/2020)
Situation update 1 (15/05/2020)
Situation update 2 (9/06/2020)
Situation update 3 (16/07/2020)
Situation update 4 (12/08/2020)
Situation update 5 (01/09/2020)
Situation update 6 (06/10/2020)
Situation update 7 (06/01/2021)
PolandMink03/02/2021Follow-up report no. 1 (26/03/2021)
Immediate notification (23/06/2021)
RussiaCat26/05/2020Final report (20/06/2020)
SloveniaFerret23/12/2020Immediate notification (23/12/2020)
South AfricaFeline (puma and lion)11/08/2020Follow up report no.1 (14/08/2020)
Immediate notification (27/07/2021)
SpainCat11/05/2020Situation update 1 (11/05/2020)
Situation update 2 (08/06/2020)
Mink16/07/2020Situation update 1 (16/07/2020)
Situation update 2 (09/04/2021)
Follow-up report 1 (16/04/2021)
Follow-up report 1 (16/04/2021)
Immediate notification (10/06/2021)
Immediate notification (29/06/2021)
Immediate notification (29/06/2021)
Immediate notification (29/06/2021)
Immediate notification (29/06/2021)
Immediate notification (06/07/2021)
Immediate notification (19/07/2021)
Immediate notification (19/07/2021)
Immediate notification (16/08/2021)
Lion21/12/2020Situation update 1 (21/12/2020)
SwedenMink29/10/2020Situation update 1 (29/10/2020)
Situation update 2 (06/11/2020)
Situation update 3 (01/12/2020)
Immediate notification (30/08/2021)
Feline (tiger, lion)15/01/2021Situation update 1 (15/01/2021)
Situation update 2 (25/01/2021)
SwitzerlandCat and dog03/12/2020Situation update 1 (03/12/2020)
Situation update 2 (13/01/2021)
Follow-up report no. 3 (07/07/2021)
ThailandCat and dog17/05/2021Follow-up report no.2 (19/07/2021)
United KingdomCat and dog28/07/2020Immediate notification (28/07/2020)
Immediate notification (24/08/2021)
United States of AmericaFeline (tiger, lion, cat, snow leopard, Amur leopard), dog, mink, gorilla, white-tailed deer and otter06/04/2020Follow-up report no. 26 (27/11/2020)
The follow-up to FUR 26 appears as a new WAHIS entry, although it is the same epidemiological event. See:
Follow-up report no. 18 (31/08/2021)
Mink (wild)11/12/2020Situation update 1 (11/12/2020)
UruguayCat and dog25/05/2021Follow-up report no. 1 (07/06/2021)

In the framework of the OIE Incident Management System, several expert ad hoc Expert Groups have been established.

Expert GroupsSub-GroupsPurposeResources availableMeeting reports and useful links
Working Group on Wildlife Informs and advises the OIE on all health problems relating to wild animals, whether in the wild or in captivityStatement Wildlife Trade and Emerging Zoonotic Diseases
(April 2020)
 Guidelines for Working with Free-Ranging Wild Mammals in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic
ad hoc Group on  COVID-19 and the animal- human interface Advises on investigations into the possible role of animals as a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 and in zoonotic transmissionTechnical Factsheet on Infection of animals with SARS-CoV-2See reports below
Advisory Group for Animal Health Laboratory Support to Public Health ResponseConvened as needed to advise on specific topics related to SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals and the veterinary public health responseGuidance on Veterinary Laboratory Support to the Public Health Response for COVID-19 (Arabic – Russian) 
 Advisory Group for Animal Health SurveillanceDevelops high-level considerations based available scientific evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in animalsConsiderations for sampling, testing, and reporting of SARS-CoV-2 in animals
(English V1.1 – Russian V1)

Guidance on Working with farmed animals of  species susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2 (Russian V2.1)
 GLEWS+ Risk Assessment on SARS-CoV-2 and animals used in fur farming
FAO-OIE Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Evolution in AnimalsAdvises FAO and OIE on risks related to the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 (through mutation or recombination) in animal populations and liaises with the WHO viral evolution group See reports below
ad hoc Group on Safe trade in animals and animal productsMonitors new knowledge related to SARS-CoV-2 that may affect risks to human health or animal health associated with international trade in animals or animal productsConsiderations on the application of sanitary measures for international trade related to COVID-19 (Russian)Report of April 2020
Report of Dec.2020-Feb.2021 – international trade in mink skins



In January, under the leadership of the OIE Wildlife Working Group, the OIE mobilised an expert group to provide scientific advice and to develop guidelines on a range of topics linked to human-animal-ecosystems interface aspects of COVID-19. These include identifying research priorities, communicating results of on-going research in animals, developing scientific opinions on the implications of COVID-19 for animal health and veterinary public health, and providing practical guidance for Veterinary Services. Subsequently an expert group was established to assess the risks and implications of COVID-19 for safe trade in animals and animal products.

The OIE developed high-level guidance on testing human specimens for COVID-19 in veterinary laboratories to support public health services in meeting the extraordinary demand in testing, which has been a critical aspect to the pandemic response in many countries.

Following widespread human infection, several species of animals have also been infected with SARS-CoV-2. As well as ensuring the international dissemination of officially approved information on such events, the OIE developed guidance on the rationale for testing animals to support public and animal health risk assessment and risk management.

While international trade has been heavily challenged, the OIE has called countries not to take sanitary restrictions linked to COVID-19 unless there is scientific justification for doing so, based on a risk assessment. Facilitating safe trade of animals and animal products, in line with OIE Standards, is indeed crucial to avoid the interruption of food chains for the most vulnerable populations.

In April, acknowledging the possible wildlife origin of SARS-CoV-2 and citing several other recent significant disease spill over events at the human-animal-ecosystems interface, the OIE Wildlife Working Group issued a statement on Wildlife Trade and Emerging Zoonotic Diseases. It highlights that several recent disease events, including SARS and Ebola virus, have resulted in severe socio-economic crises as a consequence of spill over events stemming from poorly regulated wildlife trade. Wildlife trade is highly complex and carries both risks and benefits. Thus, there is a need to support legal, sustainable and responsible wildlife use by providing sound guidance, standards, risk assessment and risk management tools. The Wildlife Working Group called for action to reduce risk of future spill over events whilst promoting welfare and biodiversity.

In January 2021, a risk assessment was developed by GLEWS+ on SARS-CoV-2 and animals used in fur farming. This Tripartite assessment conducted by FAO, the OIE and WHO, focuses on fur farms and Mustelidae, the only farmed species that has reported the presence of SARS-CoV-2 to date. The spread of SARS-CoV-2 in fur farms impacts animal health and animal welfare, and poses a risk of spill over to native wildlife which may affect the biodiversity of species. The presence of this virus in mink farms may also have an important impact on public health and economic well-being contributing to widespread socioeconomic disruption. This risk assessment is conducted at a regional level to assess the overall risk of introduction and spread of SARS-CoV-2 within the fur farms, the spill over from fur farms to humans, and the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from fur farmed animals to susceptible wildlife populations.

Looking to the future, the OIE has initiated an ambitious work programme in consultation with its Wildlife Working Group, its Members and international partners. The objective of the Wildlife Health Management programme is to reduce and manage risks of spill over events between wildlife, livestock and humans, whilst ensuring the protection of biodiversity. Although the origin of the virus causing COVID-19 has not been confirmed yet, it is highly suspected to have emanated from wildlife. The OIE is working on new developments to increase good practices in wildlife trade and facilitate the implementation of integrated wildlife surveillance systems, as well as to improve knowledge on viruses circulating in wildlife through research. This work aims to produce new guidelines, and if necessary international standards, which will cover transportation, capture, farming, marketing, and consumption of wildlife, and to raise awareness on best practices.

The OIE remains committed to timely communicate verified science-based information to the international community as new knowledge comes to light.


Our experts speak

Dr William B. Karesh, USA
Working Group | Wildlife
Dr Cristóbal Zepeda, USA
Ad hoc Group | COVID-19 and safe trade in animals and animal products
Dr Misheck Mulumba, South Africa
Ad hoc Group | COVID-19 and the human-animal interface
Prof. Ann Cullinane, Ireland
Advisory Group | COVID-19 and animal health laboratories

Outputs of expert meetings

The OIE ad hoc Group on COVID-19 at the animal-human interface has been keeping the OIE updated on investigations into the potential role of animals and other matters of relevance. For the minutes of the consultations with the group please see:

The FAO-OIE Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 evolution in animals advises FAO and OIE on risks related to the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 (through mutation or recombination) in animal populations and liaises with WHO viral evolution group. For the minutes of the consultations with the group please see:


Additional resources

Reducing public health risks associated with the sale of live wild animals of mammalian species in traditional food markets | Interim guidance (OIE, WHO, UNEP) | Arabic | Chinese | Russian |

In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, several resources have been made available by the OIE to raise awareness on its work and on the contribution of the veterinary profession. Discover them here.

Press contact: [email protected]


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