COVID-19 Q & A for Agricultural Communities

“Can COVID-19 affect my livestock?” “I live and work on a farm. Why do I need to practice social distancing?”

These are some common questions you may have about COVID-19. UMASH has compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) for farmers, families, farm workers and others living and working in agriculture.

1. What is COVID-19

The novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is a viral respiratory illness that affects people and first appeared in Wuhan, China. The disease it causes is called “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”). It is considered a novel virus because it has not previously been identified.

2. What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large class of different viruses that are commonly found in a wide variety of animals, birds, and people. Coronaviruses can pose a threat to livestock, companion animals, and humans. Most coronaviruses are only transmitted among animal species and do not cause illness in humans. However there are three serious coronaviruses that cause infection in humans – MERS-CoV, SARS and now the COVID-19 identified from Wuhan.

3. What is the source of COVID-19?

Officials are still working to find the source of the COVID-19. It is believed to have originated from an animal at a seafood and animal Market in Wuhan China suggesting an initial animal-to-human spread. However, current transmission of COVID-19 is maintained through person-to-person spread.

4. Is COVID-19 the same as SARS and MERS-CoV?

No. The recently emerged COVID-19is not the same as the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or the coronavirus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

5. How does the COVID-19 spread?

Although the virus likely emerged from an animal source, the virus appears now to be spreading from person-to-person via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes similarly to how influenza and other respiratory illnesses spread. This spread generally occurs between close contact (distance of 6 feet) of people.

It is also possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching surfaces or objects that have the virus on it then touching their nose, mouth, or eyes.

Importantly, COVID-19 is currently spread and sustained within communities (community spread) within the United States. Community spread means that people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

6. What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19?

Current symptoms reported in patients with the COVID-19 include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and shortness of breath (difficulty breathing). Signs and symptoms may appear anywhere from 2-14 days after exposure. CDC advises people with these signs and symptoms, regardless of severity, who have been in contact with a person infected with COVID-19 or have travelled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19, to contact their doctor.

Older people (e.g. >60 years old), those with chronic medical conditions (e.g. people who are immunocompromised or who have chronic heart, lung, or kidney conditions), and pregnant women may be at higher risk for severe illness and complications from COVID-19 infection. However, it should be noted that young and healthy people are also at risk for severe illness and complications from COVID-19 infection.

7. How do you protect yourself from COVID-19?
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Wash your hands.
  • Clean and regularly disinfect commonly touched objects and surfaces
  • Implement social distancing measures such as staggering work schedules, limiting in-person meetings, and increasing the physical distance (at least 6 feet) between work spaces.
  • Facemasks – CDC does not recommend that people who are feeling well wear masks to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be worn by people who are ill and show symptoms from COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

*Additionally, please follow recommended guidelines provided by your local or State Health Department as these guidelines are constantly evolving.

8. What is the treatment for COVID-19?

There are currently no specific treatments for the COVID-19. People who think they may be exposed should speak with their doctor and people infected should receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms and support vital bodily functions.

9. Can COVID-19 infect my herd, flock, or pets?

At this time, there is no evidence that livestock or companion animals (e.g. pets) can spread COVID-19. If you are sick you should try and restrict contact with pets just as you would around other people and it is suggested that people with COVID-19 limit contact around all animals until more information is known about the virus.

10. What is the risk of COVID-19 in imported animals or animal products?

There is no evidence suggesting that animals or animal products pose a risk for spreading COVID-19 in the United States. Based on our knowledge about SARS and MERS-CoV and their poor survivability on surfaces there is likely a very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at room temperatures. Therefore currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USDA, and Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) are continuing to monitor and regulate the importation of live animals and animal products into the United States for any changes in these risks.

11. What does social distancing look like on a dairy/swine farm?

The goal of social distancing is to increase the distance between people in order to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. Recommendations to improve social distancing on dairy and swine operations include:
limiting access to the farm to only essential personnel only,
reducing interactions with people outside of work,
creating “teams” of workers that work the same shifts to reduce mixing of people,
limiting the number of face-to-face meetings or interactions,
scheduling break times so that too many people congregate in break rooms.

12. How can we support our rural communities?

We can support our communities by being prepared. It is important during this time to make a plan to help secure the health and well-being of both employees and their community including basic principles such as staying at home if ill and washing your hands for 20 seconds. It is important to remember that everyone processes and is affected by this differently. There are simple tools and resources available (http://umash.umn.edu/stress/) that can be used to help identify the signs and symptoms of stress and who to contact if concerned. Also, it is important to remember we are not in this alone, and although we should be practicing social distancing, it is also important to maintain personal connection through regular telephone or video check ins.

Xfinity has provided free internet service hotspots to help people stay connected