COVID-19 Update From Minnesota Poultry Veterinarians

COVID-19 Update From Minnesota Poultry Veterinarians

We are watching the expanding COVID-19 epidemic with concern. The unknowns about the virus, where it is, and the chaos in the public health system have raised many questions. Although we can’t solve most of these issues, there are a few things we have heard that we can address.

Does the coronavirus infect poultry or birds?

COVID-19 is an important human disease caused by a virus names SARS CoV2. The virus may have originally come from mammals, perhaps pangolins or bats but now it is a human adapted virus causing a disease that spreads from human to human. Although the virus originally came from non-human mammals, the COVID-19 outbreak no longer involves them.

The SARS-CoV2 virus belongs to the beta Coronavirus genus. All known avian coronaviridae are in the gamma coronavirus genus. That means that there is very little relatedness between avian coronaviruses and SARS CoV2. We can never say that there is no risk that SAR-CoV2 could infect birds but it has likely had lots of opportunities to do that in Asia and never has.

There are many types of Coronaviruses and most vertebrates are hosts to one or more strains. Coronaviruses are RNA viruses and infect many species of warm blooded animals including birds. Influenza viruses are not a part of the coronavirus family but they share many of the same characteristics:

  1. They have an envelope. That means they are destroyed by UV light, drying, and disinfectants. Just like flu, cold and wet conditions preserve the
  2. They have an RNA genome which means that when they reproduce, they change which means that over time, we will likely see changes in the virus, its antigenic profile, its contagiousness and its
  3. It is a virus which means it needs a host to replicate in. Once it is out of the host, it will start to
  4. Just like flu, it is spread in droplets. So, cover your sneezes and coughs!

So, are birds a host of SARS-CoV2? No, they are not.

Although your birds are safe from infection, could a COVID-19 outbreak still affect your business?

The novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV2 can impact your poultry business in several ways. First, China has been hard hit by COVID-19 and even harder hit by the movement restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV2. The result is an extreme disruption of supply chains and thus you may see shortages of products you get from China among them vitamins, amino acids, medications, some vaccines, etc. Similarly, the human outbreak of COVID-19 and the fear it has caused has resulted in runs on ppe. You may find it difficult to supply your biosecurity needs. Finally, if a full blown outbreak occurs in the US where large numbers of people are infected at the same time, then it may be difficult to fully staff positions in your company.

If you have additional questions about COVID-19 or SARS-CoV2, especially as it relates to birds, or the poultry industry, we are happy to answer them, if we can.

Sincerely, Minnesota poultry veterinarians