While human-to-domestic-animal infections are currently regarded as rare and isolated incidents, there has been experimental clinical infection of ferrets with SARS-CoV-1.
The recent AVA release acknowledged the present scarcity of PPE as one of the difficulties confronting practitioners in the current climate.
Ideally, it is recommended that practitioners use surgical masks with eye protection, gloves and an apron/gown – consistent with WHO IPC recommendations for COVID-19 where there is no aerosol generation during a procedure.
Appropriate hand hygiene before and after handling, disinfection of tables and other surfaces, and limiting contact with the ferret are also advised.
Based on current information, the association advises vets to thoroughly check any history of expo- sure before examining any ferrets.
Practitioners should consider whether the animals come from a household under quarantine or self-isolation, if the ferret has been exposed to a person with a diagnosed infection or known clinical signs of COVID-19 (dry cough, fever, sore throat, respiratory difficulties), and the level of infection.
“If a ferret has been in known contact with a COVID-19 human patient, treat them as you would if concerned about a possible influenza, especially a ferret with respiratory signs,” the AVA spokesperson said.
Veterinarians are encouraged to advise self-isolating or quarantining owners to prioritise their ferret’s welfare by minimising contact and maintaining good hygiene for handling, feeding and water changing.
If possible, those under medical attention for COVID-19 should have another member of the household care for their ferrets.