Worldwide concern about animals infecting humans with COVID-19 grew in March 2020 after Hong Kong officials quarantined a dog that tested positive. Soon afterward, a tiger at a U.S. zoo also had a positive COVID-19 test.
Since then, there have been conflicting news reports about whether animals can truly transmit the virus to humans. Is it possible to get coronavirus from your dog? And what if a stray dog bites you on the street?
Here’s What the Experts Say About Pets and COVID-19
First, let’s look at what veterinarians and other animal experts tell us about COVID-19 and pets: There’s no evidence that dogs and cats can pass it to people.
The dog in Hong Kong may have gotten the virus from its owner, who had a “weak positive” test for COVID-19, but the dog itself had no symptoms and didn’t become sick. The owner didn’t get the virus from her dog and there are no verified cases of this ever happening anywhere – in China, in the U.S., or anywhere else in the world.
In the case of the tiger at the U.S. zoo, the tiger had been around people who soon thereafter tested for COVID-19. Again, although the animal may have contracted COVID-19 from humans, there is no evidence that the virus can travel the other direction.
Most people don’t realize that the coronavirus was already a well-known virus in cats and dogs before COVID-19, or the 2019 novel coronavirus, arose as a human pandemic. Feline coronavirus and canine coronavirus have been studied for years and have never been considered a threat between humans and pets.
But if you’re bitten by a dog, it can be dangerous for plenty of other reasons: open wounds, broken bones, bacterial infections, and rabies, just to name a few. While your risk of getting COVID-19 from a dog is so low it’s almost nonexistent, your risk of acquiring a serious bacterial infection is much higher.
Assessing the Damage From Dog Bites
More than 4 million dog bites happen every year in the U.S. and of those, 365,000 require emergency hospitalization and 27,000 result in reconstructive surgery. Most of these bites come not from stray dogs, but from familiar dogs – our own pets, and those of our friends and family members.
Although so far there have been zero cases of dog bites causing COVID-19, there are plenty of cases where people have acquired other viruses, bacteria, and diseases from dogs. Rabies is a contagious viral disease that can be passed from dogs to humans through a bite, and it’s fatal if left untreated.
Capnocytophaga infection arises from dog bites and causes human victims to suffer gum and eye infections, septicemia (blood infection), respiratory distress, heart inflammation, and permanent damage to the brain’s membranes. Although rare, it’s one of the most serious bacterial infections you can get from a dog.
A study by the National Institutes of Health found that 50% of infected dog bite wounds in humans had not just one infection, but multiple types. The most common types included Enterobacteria, Pseudomonas, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, and beta-Streptococcus, all of which require medical treatment.
What to do After a Dog Bite During COVID-19
Now that the city of Baltimore is opening back up after COVID-19 closures, the risk of dog bites is going back up too. As social distancing measures ease, you’re at risk of a dog bite every time you visit a friend who has a dog or head out to the dog park with your canine pal.
Maybe the same person who refuses to follow social distancing guidelines also refuses to follow leash laws. So if the worst happens and you’re bitten by a dog, seek immediate medical treatment and contact a Baltimore dog bite attorney. Biting dogs might not spread COVID-19, but they do spread plenty of pain and suffering.
Have a Legal Question About a Dog Bite? We Have Answers
When you need to learn more about your rights, the attorneys at Zirkin and Schmerling Law can help. Contact us or call us at 410-753-4611 to set up an appointment with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers today.