And like humans, animals continue to shape the pandemic, as new variants and subvariants mutate in hosts with skin, fur, and feathers before attempting to launch into the broader population.
COVID entered humans from animals—perhaps in multiple patients from multiple animal encounters in late 2019, according to a recent study—and it can reenter animals via humans in a process scientists call “zoonotic transmission.”.Just as COVID can mutate in humans, it can mutate in animals.While the majority of globally identified animal cases have been in mink, deer, and pets like cats and dogs, Rajnarayanan recently noted that COVID has already crossed over into the avian population.
He also thinks the agency should provide protective gear for farmers to reduce the likelihood of transmission from farmers to farm animals, and vice versa.As climate change continues, forcing animals and humans into contact more regularly, spillover and spillback are bound to occur—be it COVID, avian flu, or a pathogen not yet known to man—perhaps the next pandemic.Veterinarians and doctors used to train together before the advent of the automobile, which resulted in doctors moving to big cities with hospitals and veterinarians moving to rural areas, where they were needed to care for farm animals, she says“We have to have the resources not just to think about human health, but to make sure we’re thinking about animal health,” she says, adding that humans often fail to become concerned about diseases in animals—until they enter humans.
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