In Colorado, a woman named Karen Eveleth has taught her golden retriever Sunny to deliver food as well as other items to her neighbor Renee Hellman. This is very laudable because Hellman is a 71-year-old who needs oxygen because of her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, meaning that she is at enormous risk from the novel coronavirus. As a result, Sunny’s efforts are a way to get necessary items to her without exposing her to other humans. Moreover, Sunny is a source of companionship in a time of isolation, which isn’t as bad as the novel coronavirus but is nonetheless a serious issue in its own right. On the whole, the incident is a nice reminder that there are good people doing good things in the world, thus making for some uplifting news in some not so uplifting times.
Why Is This So Important?
There is still much that remains unknown about the novel coronavirus. However, the numbers make it clear that some segments of the population are much more threatened than others. For example, COVID-19 seems to be much more dangerous for older people than younger people, as shown by how the chances of death start increasing by considerable jumps for people who are 50 or older. Moreover, the older that people are, the more dangerous that the novel coronavirus seems to be for them. Likewise, COVID-19 seems to be much more dangerous for people with certain medical conditions, with examples including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease. For some of these medical conditions, it is unclear why the novel coronavirus would be so dangerous. In contrast, others seem to have much more obvious explanations, with examples ranging from how diabetes can depress immune function to how chronic respiratory disease is likely to be exacerbated by the novel coronavirus targeting the same areas.
In any case, it is clear why Eveleth is so cautious about helping out her neighbor. After all, Hellman is 71-years-old, which is quite a dangerous age for someone to get COVID-19. To an extent, this is because older people have weaker immune systems, thus making it that much more difficult for them to fight off infections as well as otherwise recover from other medical conditions. However, it should also be noted that older people are much likelier to have chronic medical conditions that increase the chances of a very negative outcome should they catch the novel coronavirus, as shown by how Hellman has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Combined, these factors mean that Hellman cannot take the risk of getting COVID-19, thus explaining the need for Sunny to serve as a delivery dog.
Of course, physical isolation isn’t the only precaution that can be used to reduce an at-risk individual’s chances of getting COVID-19. For example, the sanitizing of hands is very important because the novel coronavirus can survive for up to 72 hours on certain surfaces. Likewise, there is the recommendation to use tap and pay methods rather than handle money, which are another point of concern. However, most of these precautions can be summed up as avoiding humans as well as other ways for the novel coronavirus to make contact, meaning that physical isolation is one of the most effective measures in spite of its considerable drawbacks.
Can Dogs Spread the Novel Coronavirus?
Moving on, some people might be curious whether a dog could spread the novel coronavirus to a human, which is a legitimate concern. After all, it is common for pathogens to make the jump from one species to another so long as they are similar enough in the right respects. On top of that, viruses and other pathogens tend to evolve at a very fast rate, meaning that even if they can’t make a jump now, there is a chance of them developing some kind of change that could enable such a jump in the future. In any case, it is worth mentioning that the novel coronavirus is believed to have come from an animal, though the exact animal or even chain of animals by which this occurred is still unclear for the time being. Something that can be counted as one of the many questions that will be addressed as researchers continue to look into them.
Naturally, researchers have looked into the question of whether dogs can spread the novel coronavirus to humans or not. After all, if COVID-19 is to be brought under control, interested parties are going to need to identify the various ways by which it can spread throughout the human population. Currently, we know that dogs can catch the novel coronavirus thanks to contact with humans who have been infected with the novel coronavirus. However, it is unknown whether the reverse scenario can happen, though there is some evidence against it.
Basically, the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute conducted a study on how well the novel coronavirus could spread among a number of domesticated species. Naturally, both cats and dogs were included in the study, while other species included pigs, ferrets, ducks, and chickens. The study itself was very simple and straightforward. In short, the scientists exposed test animals to the novel coronavirus, examined them to see whether they had become infected, and then put them in cages next to uninfected animals to see whether the latter would become infected. As it turned out, ferrets were very susceptible to the novel coronavirus. Meanwhile, cats could become infected and even spread the infection to other cats, though the rates at which the latter happened were quite low at just one in three. In contrast, the scientists managed to detect viral RNA but nothing infectious in just two of the five dogs exposed to the samples, while the pigs, ducks, and chickens didn’t even show that. As such, the study suggests that dogs aren’t exactly a huge concern for the spread of the novel coronavirus, though more investigation into the matter is needed to confirm this matter.
Regardless, there have been recommendations put out for people who are concerned about either spreading the novel coronavirus to pets or the reverse scenario. Essentially, they can be summed up as maintaining physical distance, which makes sense because that limits opportunities for any pathogens to make a potential jump from one species to another.