LA Department of Public Health faces backlash after offering COVID-19 test to animals, including seals

The Los Angeles Department of Public Health is facing mounting criticism over its decision to offer free COVID-19 testing for animals, although no positive cases have been reported among animals in the area.

LA Public Health announced the initiative Aug. 20 and said it received funding from the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor animals in Los Angeles County for COVID-19. .

“This project will help us learn more about COVID-19 from a one health perspective, which means we can learn more about the importance of COVID-19 in human, animal and environmental relationships” , the public health body said.

“Part of the funds will support local animal testing for SARS-CoV-2. We will partner with and offer free testing at various animal care facilities and agencies throughout LA County. Our aim is to test many different species of animals including wildlife (deer, bats, raccoons), pets (dogs, cats, hamsters, pets), marine mammals (seals) and more,” LA Public Health said.

The department noted that pet owners may be eligible to have their furry friends tested if they have been exposed to a human or animal with COVID-19 or are showing symptoms of COVID-19. Testing is also eligible for “pocket pets” such as “fancy mice/rats, hamsters, hedgehogs” and more that have contact with people, even if none of those people have recently been tested. tested positive for COVID-19.

Of the 177 animals that have been tested in Los Angeles County so far, including dogs, cats, bats, raccoons, skunks, rats and sea lions, none tested positive for COVID-19 as of August 18.

The new program was heavily criticized on social media, with one Twitter user complaining that taxpayer funds were “spent lightly, while another declared that free testing “means your taxes”.

“How many ways can they waste money?” an individual wrote of LA Public Health, while another joked that unicorns would be the next animals to be tested by the health body.

Elsewhere, another Twitter user who claimed to work in veterinary medicine said she didn’t know ‘nothing about it [expletive] …animals do not catch Covid-19.

According to the CDC, “there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to humans,” although there has been some limited number of reports of virus spread. to people from infected mammalian animals through close contact. The public health agency noted that this is rare, however.

The agency has advised people with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 to avoid contact with animals, including pets, livestock and wildlife, indicating documented cases of animals infected with the virus after contact with people with COVID-19.

“We don’t yet know all the animals that can be infected,” the CDC noted. “It is possible that the virus infects animals, mutates and that a new strain can spread to people and then between people (called a spill),” the agency added. “More studies and surveillance are needed to track variants and mutations and to understand how SARS-CoV-2 spreads between humans and animals.”

According to a COVID-19 data tracking dashboard for cases in animals set up by the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society, there have been 717 “animal SARS-CoV-events- 2” in the world since February 2020.

An “event” is considered by the university and society to be “when a single case or multiple epidemiologically linked cases have been identified by the presence of viral RNA (evidence of infection) and/or antibodies (evidence of ‘exposure) in an animal”.

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Katabella Roberts is a news writer for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on U.S., global, and business news.