What a difference 6 weeks makes. Everyone who is reading this has had their lives disrupted in some fashion due to the novel corona virus that is affecting our entire world. At the moment I am typing this the United States has 321,020 reported cases with 9,109 deaths. For those of you stats people out there, that is a 2.8% death rate. The actual death rate may be lower when epidemiologists later add in asymptomatic cases and positives that were never confirmed because of lack of testing.
Those numbers will come in time with serological testing, i.e. antibody testing on a wide scale to see who has been exposed and subsequently developed antibodies.
I am neither an MD nor a virologist, but I do think I can collate some information and bring it to you in an understandable fashion. I will try to answer some of the questions I have been asked this past month.
Some background on Coronaviruses. This is a large family of viruses, which includes a lot of individual coronaviruses. Most species are affected by their own strain, and luckily many times there is no passage to other species. There is a canine coronavirus that causes diarrhea mainly in puppies and in shelter situations. It is an alphacoronavirus 1 type, not at all similar to the Covid-19 virus. (I will continue to refer to this new virus as Covid-19 – though it’s actual name is SARS-CoV-2).
Symptoms for canine coronavirus include vomiting and diarrhea, but signs are usually self-limiting and dogs rarely require hospitalization for it. Some dogs do require IV fluids. They usually shed the virus for a few days, but some dogs shed virus for months. There is a vaccine for this intestinal virus, but it is not commonly part of a core vaccine program. There is also a beta coronavirus that causes respiratory signs. It is similar to the OC43 virus that affects cows and people.
Of course, cats also have a coronavirus. It is an alphacoronavirus. This coronavirus is far beyond the scope of this blog, but FCoV (Feline Coronavirus) is a common viral infection is cats. Generally it is an asymptomatic infection, but it can also cause mild diarrhea. In a small number of cats, this mild diarrhea causing virus can give rise to mutations that lead to the development of a disease condition called Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). FIP is often if not always fatal. Covid-19 does not behave like Feline Infectious Peritonitis.
Human Coronavirus – that’s what is turning our world upside down. There are 7 known types. Number 7 below is the cause of our pandemic.
- 229E (alpha coronavirus)
- NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
- OC43 (beta coronavirus)
- HHU1 (beta coronavirus)
- MERS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS)
- SARS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS)
- SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19)
Some of the questions I have been asked:
- Isn’t this just an over–hyped cold?The human cold (much like the term kennel cough) is caused by a wide variety of viruses. Just like there are over 8 organisms that cause the syndrome we call kennel cough, human colds are caused by rhinovirus, coronaviruses, respiratory syncytial virus and parainfluenza. This is not just an overhyped cold, while some of us may end up with cold-like symptoms and mild disease, some of us while have severe disease requiring hospitalization and more than a few of us will die. This new virus is to colds what dynamite is to a firecracker.
- Can my dog or cat get this?At this point the answer is still we are not sure. There was a dog in Hong Kong that tested positive for it, and whose owner had it. We certainly don’t think dogs or cats are major reservoirs for the disease. Nor do we think they are particularly susceptible. There is one study out of China, that shows cats and ferrets can contract COVID-19 and transfer it to other cats. However, human-to-human transmission is clearly the main driver so there is no need to panic about cats being an important source of the virus. Our cats are at risk from us, more than being a risk to This is a recent report about cats and no doubt more will be revealed. At WBAH we are not seeing an uptick in respiratory disease in cats. If you have Covid-19 I would recommend limiting your contact with your cat just as you would limit contact with other family members.
- How worried are you?I’m concerned, but not panicked. The uncertainty surrounding a predictable disease course is the worrisome thing. The vast majority of us, with no co-morbidities will be just fine. Most of the deaths have been in those of advanced age with existing other disease factors such as respiratory disease or other forms of immune suppression. There have been cases of people dying that were younger and had no existing respiratory disease – those are what scare you. The fact that more than 65,000 people world-wide have died from this in a matter of a couple of months, is a big concern.
- Isn’t this about the same as the flu in 2009? The H1N1 virus was responsible for 60.8 million case in the USA, and 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths from April 2009 to April 2010. That is a 0.2% death rate. So, stating the obvious, this is worse.
- Is there any hope? My concern is that this will be with us for perhaps several months or longer, and following the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendations is the best hope in flattening the curve and lessening the number of cases and therefore decreasing the load on our hospitals. I am proud that California as a state went into action quickly. In early March of this year, both California and New York had approximately the same number of cases. As of Friday, April 3, California had nearly 12,000 cases and New York had about 103,000 cases. California has had 264 deaths, to New York’s 2935. Leaders in government and business took things seriously. From working at home, to sheltering in place in San Francisco as well as Southern California, we as a state jumped on things earlier. Bottom line, that has saved lives. New York was a little bit behind in instituting the same type of changes, that delay proved a bit costly. Of course, the conditions in New York are different than in California but the restrictions have worked.
The changes put in place at this hospital changed drastically over the past month. Seemed like every two days we were re-writing what we needed to do to protect clients and staff. Hope? In terms of a miracle cure? Unlikely. There are possibilities that are being investigated. Hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin are two that are being looked at.
- What can we do to prevent ourselves from getting this?
- Shelter in place – hanging out at home is a pretty safe option.
- Social distancing – when you do have to go out, staying 6 feet away from individuals is smart and safe.
- Hand washing. 20 seconds. Frequently and thorough
- Do not touch your face with your hands. Contaminated hands are a common source of introducing the virus to yourself.
- Wearing a mask – this was a little controversial until just a few days ago. Most available masks (other than the ND95 that filters out viral particles and due to shortages should only be used by at risk care providers) do not protect you from exposure. They offer no protection to your eyes. They offer some protection to others. So why wear a mask?
- Because when you are wearing a mask you won’t touch your face. Any mask works, wear a mask – don’t touch your face. Face touching with your hands is the most common way to spread the virus.
I offer this video for your viewing pleasure. The star of the show is an MD named David Price. I thought I would be saying the name David Price throughout late spring and April as he is the new Dodger pitcher and all of you who know me know that I’m a bit of a baseball fan. This David Price is the real hero. I offer his video for your viewing knowledge:
Dr. David Price of Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City shares information in a Mar. 22 Zoom call with family and friends on empowering and protecting families…
At Washington Blvd Animal Hospital we are striving to provide excellent health care in challenging times. We wish you, your family and your furry family the best. Call, text or write with questions, we will do our best to answer them.