“Bats, monkeys and dogs, oh my!”- UIS webinar on animals’ ability to transmit diseases to humans

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Some of the gorillas at San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park have tested positive for COVID-19. (Courtesy: San Diego Safari Park)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — The University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) hosted a webinar Friday regarding animals’ ability to transmit infectious diseases to humans.

The “bats, monkeys and dogs, oh my!” was a free virtual webinar presented by Dr. Connie Austin. Officials said she is an epidemiologist and a State Public Health Veterinarian. During the webinar, Dr. Austin talked about several infectious diseases that may be transmitted to humans through contact with exotic pets, importing of animals and traveling around the world. The diseases mentioned were SARS, MERS, and COVID-19.

According to Dr. Austin, there have been several cases of animals catching COVID-19 from their close contact with humans. However, there has been no cases of humans getting COVID from animals.

“With COVID-19, there have been a variety of infections in zoos. These have occurred in feline species like lions and tigers as well as non-human primates. Most recently, the Gorillas at the Atlantic Zoo have become affected with COVID,” said Dr. Austin. “They have measures in place to prevent it but they believe it was an asymptomatic caretaker that brought it (COVID) in. There are cats and dogs that have been infected (with COVID) but it is a very low numbers. In Illinois, we only have two cats that tested positive. COVID does not seem to transmit from these species back to humans.”

Dr. Austin encourages people to get the COVID vaccine to avoid severe symptoms and lessen the possibility of passing the virus to other people and animals.

Anyone interested in watching the webinar can find it on the UIS website.

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