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Covid-19 animal testing to take place only when 'scientific rationale'- Department

To date, no animals have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus in Ireland, a Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) last month.

On current and future testing of animals, the spokesperson said resources and equipment is prioritised for human Covid-19 cases and animal testing would only take place where there are public health considerations or a scientific rationale for doing so.

The spokesperson added that there is “no evidence indicating that livestock can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and preliminary findings from studies suggest that poultry and pigs are not susceptible to the virus”.

Dr Alan Rossiter MVB Senior Veterinary Surgeon, Blacklion Pet Hospital and past-President of Veterinary Ireland told MI  that there had been “limited involvement” of veterinary experts into the Irish public health response to the pandemic.

“Veterinarians have extensive academic and also real-world experience of investigation, tracing, control and suppression of infectious disease outbreaks in animals,” Dr Rossiter said.  

“At the very least there is nothing to be lost by having veterinary medical expertise input. Examples of the veterinary profession’s experience in dealing with epidemics include avian influenza, foot and mouth disease, African swine fever, rabies etc We have successfully eradicated certain animal diseases such as rinderpest.

“So yes, there should be more openness to listen to the views of veterinary expertise as we have ‘been there, done that’.”

The DAFM spokesperson outlined some of the involvement by animal health experts in the Covid-19 response.

“For example, the Centre for Veterinary Epidemiology and Risk Analysis (CVERA) in UCD were involved in the development of the inputs for the models developed by NPHET’s [National Public Health Emergency Team]  modelling advisory group,”  according to the spokesperson.

DAFM veterinary laboratory facilities in Backweston were made available for Covid-19 testing and the spokesperson said vets from the Department of Health have assisted and supported HSE local outbreak control teams dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks in meat plants.

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