Archive for the ‘COVID-19’ Category

Jun 12, 2020

An Update on COVID-19 in Animals in the United States

Posted by Bob under COVID-19

As the situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop, we are still learning about how the virus may affect our pets. Since our last COVID-19 blog, there have been some additional developments regarding infected animals in the United States. We have shared some details below and will continue to provide relevant updates.

Update on Pug in North Carolina

In our last blog, we mentioned a pug in North Carolina who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Winston’s human family had all tested positive for COVID-19 so when he began to show signs of respiratory illness, his family took him to the vet. At that time, he tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 however confirmatory testing was still being done by the USDA National Veterinary Service Laboratory (NVSL).

It was recently announced however that the confirmatory testing came back negative. These results suggest that Winston was contaminated with SARS-CoV-2, likely from close interaction with his human family, however the contamination did not develop into an active infection. The virus did not enter his bloodstream or respiratory tract and according to the USDA, there was no evidence of an immune response.

German Shepherd in New York

The good news about Winston comes with the news of another dog who has become the first official positive case of COVID-19 in a dog in the United States. A German shepherd living in New York showed symptoms of respiratory illness and was later confirmed COVID-19 positive by the USDA NVSL. One of the dog’s owners is COVID-19 positive while the other owner had symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Another dog in the household had no symptoms of illness however antibodies were detected in samples suggesting exposure to the virus. The German shepherd is expected to make a full recovery.

Cats Test Positive in Minnesota and Illinois

In addition to the German shepherd, two more cats have recently tested positive for COVID-19. One cat is in Minnesota, the other in Illinois, and both live with owners who also tested positive for the virus. Both are also the first animals in their respective states to test positive for coronavirus.

Update on Tigers and Lions at Bronx Zoo

As we reported previously, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in an animal in the United States was a tiger at the Bronx Zoo. Shortly after, a lion at the zoo also tested positive. Several of the large cats were exhibiting symptoms and it was recently reported that additional testing confirmed 4 more tigers and 2 more lions were also positive for COVID-19. It is presumed that the large cats were exposed by a zookeeper who was actively shedding the virus. All of the infected cats are reportedly recovering well.

We Still Have More to Learn

We are still learning about this virus and how it may affect animals. At this time, it appears that animals may contract the virus from infected humans however animals do not appear to play a significant role in spreading the virus. The CDC and AVMA continue to recommend avoiding contact with your pets if you have COVID-19.

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May 8, 2020

An Update Regarding Pets and COVID-19

Posted by Bob under COVID-19

In a recent blog, we discussed animals from around the world who tested positive for COVID-19. To summarize, the number of positive cases were few and all shared one commonality: they were in close contact with a human caregiver/owner who was infected with COVID-19. Of the small number of cases, even fewer showed clinical signs. While one 17-year-old dog passed away, it was presumed that he died from ongoing health issues and other age-related concerns. The rest of the animals recovered, or were expected to recover, without incident. According to the CDC, “Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.”

Lion at the Bronx Zoo

In the weeks since that blog was published, a small number of new cases have been reported. As reported in the previous blog, the first case that was confirmed and reported in the United States was a tiger at the Bronx Zoo. The tiger, along with several other large cats, developed a dry cough and reduced appetite. One of the affected large cats, a lion, was tested a few weeks after the tiger and tested positive for COVID-19. It is believed that the animals were infected by a human caregiver who did not have symptoms but was actively shedding the virus. The affected cats are reported to be recovering well and no other animals at the zoo have shown symptoms.

Two Cats in New York

In addition, two domestic cats in New York have now tested positive for COVID-19. The cats were from different households and cities and both showed symptoms of respiratory disease. One cat lives in a household with an owner who has COVID-19 and a second cat that has had no clinical signs of illness.

The second cat to test positive for COVID-19 in New York is an indoor/outdoor cat. The cat does not live with an owner who has a confirmed case of COVID-19. It is suspected that this cat contracted COVID-19 from an owner who was asymptomatic or from contact with the virus outside of the home.

Pug in North Carolina

Making headlines recently was a pug in North Carolina who showed symptoms of respiratory disease and tested positive for COVID-19. The pug’s human family all have COVID-19 however another dog and a cat in the same house were negative. His owners stated, “(The dog) licks all of our dinner plates and sleeps in my mom’s bed, and we’re the ones who put our faces into his face. So, it makes sense that he got (coronavirus).” Confirmatory testing is still being conducted at USDA’s National Veterinary Service Laboratory. If those tests are confirmed, the case will be reported to the OIE – the World Organization for Animal Health. Winston, the pug, is already doing better.

The number of animals who have tested positive for COVID-19 remains low, thus the CDC does not currently recommend routine testing. If your pet is exhibiting symptoms of infection, call your veterinary provider. If you or a family member is sick, the CDC recommends you avoid contact and practice cleanliness when interacting with your pets. The CDC also recommends keeping cats indoors and dogs on leashes, avoiding interaction between your pets and other pets/humans, and avoiding places like dog parks and other areas where people and dogs gather.

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May 1, 2020

PSC Prepares to Launch COVID-19 Clinical Trial – You Can Help

Posted by Bob under COVID-19, Stem Cell Therapy

Our human stem cell company, Personalized Stem Cells, Inc. (PSC), recently announced that they filed a request with the FDA for expedited review of an Investigational New Drug (IND) application for the treatment of COVID-19 patients with stem cells. PSC was asked by the White House Coronavirus Task Force to apply for expedited review through a new FDA program called the Coronavirus Therapeutic Accelerator Program (CTAP). CTAP was launched to help expedite the approval process of clinical trials for promising COVID-19 therapies.

Stem Cells for COVID-19

Recent studies evaluating the effects of stem cell therapy in COVID-19 patients have come out of China and Israel showing strikingly positive results. Stem cells have anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to reduce scar tissue formation. Stem cell therapy has the potential to reduce the serious lung complications that occur as a result of infection with COVID-19. The goal of treatment is to reduce time spent in the ICU, reduce ventilator needs, and increase chances of survival for seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

PSC has scaled up production of stem cells in their FDA-inspected facilities to be ready to provide stem cell treatments upon FDA approval. If approved, the initial COVID-19 clinical trial, termed “CoronaStem 1,” will provide treatment for twenty hospitalized COVID-19 patients with serious complications. The first trial will be conducted in a limited number of local San Diego hospitals. PSC anticipates additional approvals and potential compassionate use in the future to allow for many more patients to be treated.

How can you help?

As a small business, PSC is utilizing their own resources to ramp up stem cell production. However, supplies and laboratory technicians are necessary to further increase production of stem cells. PSC plans to provide stem cell treatments to COVID-19 patients at no cost to the patient which requires additional money to pay the doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who will be performing the clinical trial. Thus, PSC is reaching out to the public for donations to help in this fight against COVID-19. Your tax-deductible donation will allow PSC to provide stem cell treatments for as many COVID-19 patients as possible. All donations will go towards increasing stem cell production and paying doctors, nurses, technicians, and all those involved in performing the medical procedures for the clinical trial.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all, many of us are looking for ways in which we can help. PSC has partnered with the San Diego Foundation, a 501c3 organization, to collect tax-deductible donations to further PSC’s efforts. Learn more about how your donation can help PSC fight COVID-19.

You can make a difference! Click here to donate today.

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Apr 17, 2020

COVID-19 in Animals: What We Know So Far

Posted by Bob under COVID-19

As we all follow along with the updates regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to remember that this is an ever-changing situation. As experts continue to learn about this novel coronavirus, we must take special caution so as to not spread misinformation. In light of recent reports that a few animals have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes coronavirus disease or COVID-19), we think it is important to address the rising concerns of the general animal owning population and compile important and factual information regarding pets and COVID-19.

Reputable Sources

First, we must stress the importance of reputable sources. Organizations such as the CDC and AVMA are trusted sources that are providing up-to-date information regarding COVID-19. You can find information from the CDC regarding COVID-19 and animals here and information from the AVMA here. It is important to note that both sites make the following statement: There is no evidence to suggest that pets can spread COVID-19 to people or other pets.

So, what do we know so far regarding COVID-19 and animals? According to the AVMA and the CDC, there is a small number of pets who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 outside of the U.S.

Confirmed Cases of SARS-CoV-2 in Pets Outside of U.S.

The first case of an animal testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 was a dog in Hong Kong. The dog’s owner was diagnosed with COVID-19 and had close contact with the dog. A second dog in the house tested negative and the positive 17-year-old dog with ongoing health issues, who died shortly after being released from quarantine, never showed signs of illness. The second reported case was also in Hong Kong. Like the first case, this dog lives with an owner who has COVID-19. A second dog in the house continues to test negative for SARS-CoV-2 and the infected dog has had no symptoms.

The third reported case was a cat in Belgium. Like the two dogs, this cat also lives with an owner who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The cat was showing respiratory and digestive symptoms and both vomit and fecal matter tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. That being said, there are many unknowns surrounding this particular case. According to the AVMA, “Because other etiologic causes for the cat’s illness appear to have not been excluded and little is known about the samples in which viral material was detected, a clear link between the presence of viral material and clinical signs consistent with coronavirus infection cannot be established. The condition of the cat reportedly improved 9 days after onset of clinical signs.”

A second cat, located in Hong Kong, also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Like the previous pets, this cat also lives with an owner who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The cat is in quarantine and is showing no symptoms of the disease.

Tiger Tests Positive for SARS-CoV-2 in New York

Perhaps most important to us in the U.S., is the recent news that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The tiger was tested after several big cats developed a dry cough. It is believed that the tiger contracted the virus from an animal caretaker that was asymptomatic but actively shedding the virus. According to the zoo spokesperson, the affected cats have experienced a decrease in appetite but are otherwise doing well and are expected to make a full recovery. At this time, there are no other reports of sick animals at the Bronx Zoo.

What does this mean for pet owners?

It is important to note that only 2 of the 5 animals listed above that tested positive for the virus after exposure from a human caregiver/owner with COVID-19 showed any symptoms of respiratory disease and none appear to be significant as it is in people. However, if you or a family member have tested positive for COVID-19, the CDC and AVMA recommend restricting contact with pets just like you would with other people. When possible, have a healthy family member care for your pets. If you must care for your animals while sick, the CDC recommends washing your hands before and after interacting with them. Avoid contact such as petting, snuggling, being kissed/licked, and sharing food.

We feel it is important to once again note that both the CDC and AVMA have reported that there is no evidence to suggest that pets can spread COVID-19 to people. This continues to be a rapidly developing situation, so we encourage you to check the CDC and AVMA websites frequently for updates.

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Apr 10, 2020

Zoo Animal Care During COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted by Bob under COVID-19

As you may know, VetStem has worked with several wild animal organizations over the years.  One example is Francis, a Sun Bear at the San Diego Zoo who received VetStem Cell Therapy.  Like dogs, cats, and horses, exotic animals are near and dear to us.  We previously posted a blog about caring for your dogs and cats during the COVID-19 pandemic but what about the zoo animals?

Due to the current stipulations in place regarding social distancing, zoos and aquariums across the United States have closed to the public.  While non-essential employees may be working from home, the animals still need care.  The animal care staff continues to provide routine care to the best of their ability.  Non-emergency procedures have been postponed, such as preventative care and routine vaccinations, in cases where the procedures require more than one person to work closely together.  But otherwise, the care continues.

Due to interruptions in supply chains, some food sources might become scarce or temporarily unavailable.  While this might sound scary, zoos and aquariums have safeguards in place to help prevent this from becoming a problem.  For instance, the platypuses, which are currently on display at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, are very picky eaters and prefer live crayfish.  Zookeepers are working with the animals to introduce various options into their diets, should live crayfish become unavailable.

While we continue to live in unprecedented and uncertain times, rest assured knowing the animals we love so much are being well cared for.  Zoos have said the animal caretakers are providing extra enrichment opportunities and exercises to help make up for the lack of interaction from visitors.  In fact, several zoos and aquariums have set up live broadcasts and videos showing various animals.  In one exceptionally cute video from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL, the resident penguins take a trip to meet the beluga whales.  We encourage you to check your local zoo’s website or Facebook page for fun and interactive videos.  Or you can view some of the larger zoos’ videos such as the San Diego Zoo’s Live Cams or the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Webcams.

Francis
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Apr 3, 2020

How Animals Are Helping Humans During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted by Bob under COVID-19, Translational Medicine

In previous blogs, we have discussed the concept of translational medicine.  That is, when successes in one branch of medicine influence and translate into advances made in another branch of medicine.  We are a veterinary company with a sister human company, therefore we specifically focus on the way veterinary medicine translates to human medicine; a concept we refer to as “One Medicine.”  Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen several instances in which the veterinary community has assisted human healthcare providers.

Veterinarians Helping Human Doctors

While the current climate in which we are living has tested many of us, we have also seen people come together in ways that are truly unprecedented.  There have been several news stories highlighting the ways in which veterinarians are helping human doctors.  According to one article, veterinary hospitals in several states have donated or lent vital equipment and supplies to help human doctors in the fight against COVID-19.  These supplies include ventilators, masks, and gowns, all of which are or may be in short supply.  

According to the American Veterinary Medical association (AVMA), conservation of personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns, and gloves is critical due to the increased demand and subsequent shortage.  The AVMA, CDC, and FDA have all provided strategies for conserving personal protective equipment and veterinarians have already implemented protocols to conserve these essential supplies.  For instance, several veterinary hospitals have restricted or completely ceased all elective surgical procedures and have taken steps to minimize contact with pet owners, thus reducing the need for personal protective equipment.

Use of Animal Data to Develop COVID-19 Vaccine

Translational medicine is not new, however it tends to stand out in trying times like these.  In a previous blog, we discussed the use of animal data when developing a new human drug or technology.  According to a press release from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), scientists have already begun a Phase 1 clinical trial to test a potential COVID-19 vaccine.  The vaccine being tested has shown promise in animal models and this is the first time it is being tested in humans.

One Medicine

In these unprecedented times, we are seeing communities and people come together to help one another in ways some of us never thought possible.  While veterinarians all over the U.S. are doing their part to assist in the fight against COVID-19, we at VetStem have also joined the fight.  In an effort to reduce person-to-person contact, several of our employees have been working from home.  It is important to note however that as a provider of critical medicines, our laboratory continues to operate and process all stem cell requests.  Feel free to contact us with any questions.

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Mar 27, 2020

Caring for Pets During Self-Isolation

Posted by Bob under COVID-19

With the current COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures being enacted, many of us find ourselves working from home and spending most, if not all, of our time indoors.  According to the most recent report from the AVMA, nearly 57% of all US households own a pet.  So, while some may be worried about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, what about our furry friends? 

Maintaining physical exercise is not only important for ourselves but for our pets as well.  In a previous blog, we discussed the potential benefits of regular walks for your dog.  Follow local ordinances regarding social distancing and use your best judgement when it comes to exercising your dog outside during the current pandemic.  If you find that you cannot continue your usual routine, consider additional ways to keep your pet active.

Playing games such as fetch and tug-of-war may be good ways to keep your dog both physically and mentally stimulated.  Toys that require your dog to chew or uncover treats can also help with mental stimulation.  Similarly, cats may also enjoy playing with toys as a form of physical and mental stimulation.  Additionally, there are many videos online that show how to teach your dog or cat new tricks.

It may also be a wise decision to consider an emergency kit for your pets.  Your kit can include food, treats, medications, toys, blanket or bed, and anything that you might need for your pet.  Many veterinary hospitals remain open however several have modified services and/or hours.  Check with your veterinarian to determine if they are still open and what their current operating protocol is so that you can plan accordingly.    

The good news is the CDC is currently reporting that there is no evidence that companion animals can spread, or are a source of, COVID-19.  See our recent blog for more information on COVID-19 and pets.  And as a reminder to our clients and potential clients, as a critical medicines provider, VetStem remains open to process all stem cell requests.  Click here to locate a VetStem provider in your area.

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Mar 19, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Pets

Posted by Bob under COVID-19

Coronavirus has impacted the world, including veterinary clinics and pet owners.  With the current situation surrounding Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), there have been questions regarding the possible transmission of the virus from humans to pets (including horses) and vice versa.

I am not an expert on COVID-19, but I am a veterinarian, an epidemiologist, and I have been studying disease spread and animal health for over 35 years.  Our VetStem team has been gathering information from trusted sources.  The following are my opinions and also referenced opinions of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).  Use these resources to assist in guiding your actions relative to COVID-19 and your pets.

Though this continues to be a rapidly developing situation, the CDC is currently reporting that they have not received any reports of pets sick with COVID-19.  They also stated, “In the United States, there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets, livestock, or wildlife, might be a source of COVID-19 infection at this time.”  The CDC recommends if you are not ill with COVID-19, you can interact with your pet as you normally would however do practice good hygiene during your interactions (wash hands before and after interacting).

CDC recommendations if you are sick with COVID-19:

  • “If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed), you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. This can help ensure both you and your animals stay healthy.”
  • “When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. Avoid contact with your pet including, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.”

Stem Cell Treatment Availability

  • We want to assure veterinarians and pet owners that VetStem’s laboratory operations are up and running and we are processing samples and shipping out cell doses to veterinarians as per our normal operations. 
  • Veterinarians are critical to maintaining the health of our animals and VetStem is following the CDC guidelines to keep our dedicated staff healthy and working.  As you may know, our laboratories are maintained at a very high FDA-recommended level of sterility and our staff working in these laboratories are working in one of the cleanest and safest environments on the planet.  We have been working at this level for more than a decade.

We will be monitoring the CDC and the AVMA alerts and keep all of you up to date with any new or changed information regarding COVID-19 and veterinary medicine.

Reputable sources for information:

  • CDC information on animals and COVID-19 click here
  • CDC info on people with COVID-19 in home care with pets click here
  • AVMA resources on pets and COVID-19 click here

Be safe.

Bob Harman, DVM, MPVM

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