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).
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
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: 31 January 2022]
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. Rapid international spread of human cases led to COVID-19 being declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Investigations have not yet identified the origin of the virus. For up-to-date information on the human health situation consult the WHO website.
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 relatives of SARS-CoV-2 are coronaviruses 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.
Animal infections with SARS-CoV-2 have been reported in a range of species by a number of countries. Evidence suggests that these infections have been introduced following contact with infected humans see XXX for further information.
There is little evidence that animals have infected humans, with the exception of isolated incidents on mink farms where farm workers were in close contact with infected mink.
Yes, a broad range of mammalian 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, mink to cat transmission, and transmission among populations of white-tailed deer including vertical transmission to their offspring.
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, swine and cattle are resistant to infection and do not shed the virus.
It is possible that we may see changes in the susceptibility of different animal species to SARS-CoV-2 infection and disease as the virus continues to evolve and new variants emerge.
Up to date information on the susceptibility of different animal species can be found here.
Although a broad range of animal species have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 with varying clinical manifestations, these infections are not the driver of the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is human-to-human transmission.
There is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 infections in animals has a significant impact on human health, animal health, or biodiversity. However, it is sensible to continue to monitor the potential impacts of SARS-CoV-2 at the human-animal-environment interface.
There are concerns about the establishment of SARS-CoV-2 reservoirs in wild or domestic animals, which could pose risks to animal and public health. Although mink and white-tailed deer have been infected at the population level there is no evidence that an animal reservoir has been established. Further studies will be required to assess the possibility for establishment of an animal reservoir and to assess implications for human and animal health.
There is also a possibility for the virus to evolve through animal infections, leading to the emergence of new variants which may behave differently from existing strains.
By monitoring animals for SARS-CoV-2 infections and working closely with other sectors (e.g., the public health sector, wildlife sector, environmental sector) it will be possible to assess implications of animal infections for human and animal health.
More information about the SARS-CoV-2 events in animals reported by countries to the OIE can be found here.
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 and the Netherlands 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.
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, in animal shelters, and when handling wildlife. People who are suspected or confirmed to be infected with the COVID-19 virus should avoid close direct contact with animals, including farm, zoo or other captive animals, and wildlife.
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.
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.
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.
Recent scientific research has shown a high prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection within white-tailed deer populations in North America. This was the first time that the virus has been detected at population levels in wildlife. This discovery requires further research to determine if white-tailed deer could become a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 and to assess other animal or public health implications. While there is currently no evidence of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from white tailed-deer to humans, there appears to have been multiple introductions of the virus into white-tailed deer populations by humans. People should avoid leaving any human waste or objects in forested areas that may be ingested or touched by wild animals.
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.
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.
Close collaboration between several sectors including animal health, public health, wildlife authorities, environment, and academia will be required to better understand the short, mid, and long term implications of SARS-CoV-2 at the human-animal-environment interface.
In some countries, Veterinary Services have supported 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.
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, racoon dogs and white-tailed deer as well as humans in close contact with them, for SARS-CoV-2 infection is important. Active monitoring is recommended as it is difficult to detect early infections in these animals. More information can be found in the OIE Statement on monitoring white-tailed deer for SARS-CoV-2.
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.
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.
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.
WOAH is in contact with its regional and sub regional offices, 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.
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.
The OIE is also reviewing lessons learned from COVID-19 to fortify its institutional resilience to international crises. To this end, the OIE has undertaken two after action reviews and has initiated a work stream aimed at building institutional resilience to all threats (irrespective of the cause).
[To print the full text click here]
Members have been keeping WOAH updated on any investigations or outcomes of investigations in animals:
Page last updated 17 June 2022
Guidance to report cases of animals infected with SARS-CoV-2 to the OIE
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Cases in SARS-Cov-2 infection in animals reported to WOAH
|Follow-up report no Member||Species affected||Date of first report||Links|
|Argentina||Cat, dog, puma, tiger||18/11/2020||Immediate notification (18/11/2020)|
Immediate notification (18/03/2021)
Follow-up report no. 1 (18/03/2021)
Immediate notification (11/01/2022)
|Belgium||Cat||28/03/2020||Situation update 1 (28/03/2020)|
|Hippopotamus||13/01/2022||Situation update 1 (13/01/2022)|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Dog||03/02/2021||Immediate notification (03/02/2021)|
|Brazil||Cat and dog||29/10/2020||Follow-up report no. 4 (31/05/2021)|
|Canada||Cat and dog||28/10/2020||Situation 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)
|White-tailed deer||01/12/2021||Follow-up report no. 2 (01/03/2023)|
|Mink||09/12/2020||Follow-up report no. 10 (22/02/2022)|
|Croatia||Cat, dog, lion, lynx||28/04/2021||Follow-up report no. 3 (16/11/2021)|
Follow-up report no.1 (01/12/2021)
|Chile||Cat||22/10/2020||Immediate notification (22/10/2020)|
|Colombia||Lion||14/12/2021||Immediate notification (14/12/2021)|
|Denmark||Mink||17/06/2020||Situation 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)
|Tiger||07/12/2021||Follow-up report no.1 (21/12/2021)|
|Estonia||Lion||22/01/2021||Situation update 1 (22/01/2021)|
Immediate notification (10/02/2021)
|France||Cat||02/05/2020||Situation update 1 (02/05/2020)|
Situation update 2 (12/05/2020)
Situation update 3 (02/04/2021)
|Mink||25/11/2020||Final report (06/01/2021)|
|Finland||Cat and dog||27/12/2021||Immediate notification (27/12/2021)|
Follow-up report no. 1 (18/02/2022)
|Germany||Cat and dog||13/05/2020||Situation update 1 (13/05/2020)|
Situation update 2 (01/12/2020)
|Greece||Mink||16/11/2020||Situation update 1 (16/11/2020)|
Situation update 2 (04/12/2020)
Follow-up report no. 9 (08/03/2022)
|Cat||23/12/2020||Situation update 1 (23/12/2020)|
|Hong Kong||Cat and dog||21/03/2020||Follow-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)
Follow-up report no. 2 (22/02/2022)
|Hamster||21/01/2022||Follow-up report no. 3 (14/02/2022)|
|Italy||Mink||30/10/2020||Situation update 1 (30/10/2020)|
Situation update 2 (11/11/2020)
Situation update 3 (21/11/2020)
Immediate notification (22/04/2021)
|Cat||09/12/2020||Situation update 1 (09/12/2020) |
Follow-up report no. 3 (14/02/2022)
|Indonesia||Tiger||08/09/2021||Immediate notification (08/09/2021)|
|Japan||Cat and dog||07/08/2020||Situation update 1 (07/08/2020)|
Follow-up report no. 6 (12/10/2021)
|Latvia||Cat||03/02/2021||Follow-up report no. 2 (13/05/2021)|
|Mink||16/04/2021||Follow-up report no. 53 (03/05/2022)|
|Lithuania||Mink||30/11/2020||Follow-up report no. 8 (03/05/2022)|
|Mexico||Dog||15/12/2020||Follow-up report no. 4 (31/05/2021)|
|Myanmar||Dog||06/10/2021||Immediate notification (06/10/2021)|
|Netherlands||Mink||26/04/2020||First 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)
|Poland||Mink||03/02/2021||Follow-up report no 2. (02/12/2021)|
Immediate notification (23/06/2021)
Follow-up report no. 1 (08/12/2021)
|Russia||Cat||26/05/2020||Final report (20/06/2020)|
|Singapore||Lion||11/09/2021||Follow-up report no. 3 (03/13/2021)|
|Slovenia||Ferret||23/12/2020||Immediate notification (23/12/2020)|
Immediate notification (12/01/2022)
|South Africa||Feline (puma and lion)||11/08/2020||Follow up report no.1 (14/08/2020)|
Follow-up report no. 1 (03/09/2021)
|Spain||Cat||11/05/2020||Situation update 1 (11/05/2020)|
Situation update 2 (08/06/2020)
|Gorilla||17/06/2022||Situation update 1 (17/06/2022)|
|Mink||16/07/2020||Situation 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)
Follow-up report no. 1 (14/03/2022)
Follow-up report no.1 (15/03/2022)
Immediate notification (29/06/2021)
Follow-up report no. 2 (18/03/2022)
Follow-up report no. 1 (15/03/2022)
Follow-up report no. 1 (15/03/2022)
Immediate notification (06/07/2021)
Follow-up report no. 1 (15/03/2022)
Follow-up report no. 1 (15/03/2022)
Immediate notification (19/07/2021)
Immediate notification (16/08/2021)
Immediate notification (14/09/2021)
Follow-up report no. 1 (11/05/2022)
Follow-up report no. 1 (18/03/2022)
|Lion||21/12/2020||Situation update 1 (21/12/2020)|
|Sweden||Mink||29/10/2020||Situation update 1 (29/10/2020)|
Situation update 2 (06/11/2020)
Situation update 3 (01/12/2020)
Follow-up report no. 4 (27/01/2022)
|Feline (tiger, lion)||15/01/2021||Situation update 1 (15/01/2021)|
Situation update 2 (25/01/2021)
|Switzerland||Cat and dog||03/12/2020||Situation update 1 (03/12/2020)|
Situation update 2 (13/01/2021)
Follow-up report no. 14 (24/05/2022)
|Thailand||Cat and dog||17/05/2021||Follow-up report no.2 (19/07/2021)|
Immediate notification (22/12/2021)
|United Kingdom||Cat and dog||28/07/2020||Immediate notification (28/07/2020)|
Immediate notification (24/08/2021)
Immediate notification (10/11/2021)
Immediate notification (22/12/2021)
|Tiger||18/12/2021||Immediate notification (18/12/2021)|
|United States of America||Feline (tiger, lion, cat, snow leopard, puma, fishing cat, lynx), dog, mink, gorilla, white-tailed deer, otter, spotted hyenas, South American coati, binturong||06/04/2020||Follow-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. 33 (25/03/2022)
|Mink (wild)||11/12/2020||Situation update 1 (11/12/2020)|
|Uruguay||Cat and dog||25/05/2021||Follow-up report no. 1 (07/06/2021)|
In the framework of the Incident Management System, several expert ad hoc Expert Groups have been established.
|Expert Groups||Sub-Groups||Purpose||Resources available||Meeting 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 captivity||Statement Wildlife Trade and Emerging Zoonotic Diseases|
|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 transmission||Technical Factsheet on Infection of animals with SARS-CoV-2||See reports below|
|Advisory Group for Animal Health Laboratory Support to Public Health Response||Convened as needed to advise on specific topics related to SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals and the veterinary public health response||Guidance on Veterinary Laboratory Support to the Public Health Response for COVID-19 (Arabic – Russian)|
|Advisory Group for Animal Health Surveillance||Develops high-level considerations based available scientific evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals||Considerations on monitoring SARS-CoV-2 in animals |
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|
(Arabic, Chinese, Russian)
|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 the WHO viral evolution group||Statement regarding the origin of the Omicron variant of concern||See reports below|
|ad hoc Group on Safe trade in animals and animal products||Monitors 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 products||Considerations 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 Wildlife Working Group, WOAH 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.
WOAH 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, WOAH 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, WOAH 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 international 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 spillover events at the human-animal-ecosystems interface, the 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, WOAH 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, WOAH 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. WOAH 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.
WOAH remains committed to timely communicate verified science-based information to the international community as new knowledge comes to light.
Our experts speak
Outputs of expert meetings
- A Coordinated Global Research Roadmap for COVID-19 (WHO Global Research and Innovation Forum).
- Statement of the OIE Wildlife Working Group, April 2020
- Report of the OIE ad hoc Group on COVID-19 and Safe Trade in Animals and Animal Products
- Recommendations from the Netherlands’ Outbreak Management Team on Zoonosis regarding the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from minks and the potential consequences for public health (English only)
The ad hoc Group on COVID-19 at the animal-human interface has been keeping WOAH 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:
- 1st Call 31 January 2020
- 2nd Call 2 March
- 3rd Call 19 March
- 4th Call 31 March
- 5th Call 7 April
- 6th Call 28 April
- 7th Call 28 May
- 8th Call 16 June
- 9th Call 10 September
- 10th Call 10 November
- 11th Call 15 December
- 12th Call 26 January 2021
- 13th Call 2 March
- 14th Call 13 April
- 15th Call 22 November
The FAO-WOAH Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 evolution in animals advises FAO and WOAH 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:
- 1st call 10 December 2020
- 2nd call 20 January 2021
- 3rd call 12 March 2021
- 4th call 01 July 2021
- 5th call 01 September 2021
- 6th call 02 December 2021
- 7th call 02 February 2022
- 8th call 02 March 2022
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, we have made available several resources to raise awareness on our work and on the contribution of the veterinary profession. Discover them here.
Statements, Declarations, Press releases
Published on 19/06/2020
Published on 24/04/2020
Published on 18/03/2020
StatementsPublished on 12/11/2020
COVID-19: Our Time to Act on Wild Animal Wet Markets
Joint Letter OIE Director General and OIE President
Special issue on COVID-19
Briefing to OIE national Delegates on COVID-19 activities | 7 July 2020