Help ferret owners understand the unique relationship between ferrets and coronavirus (specifically COVID-19). Disclaimer: While we are confident in the information provided in this article, we will make sure to update this page regularly if any new information pertaining to ferrets and coronavirus develops. After all, we are not scientific experts. We are passionate ferret owners looking to provide up-to-date information for our community of readers. New information is developing constantly with coronavirus (COVID-19) so we recommend to always err on the side of caution with your ferrets. Please always consult your vet. We are thankful to those who reach out to us with new findings, corrections and sources and are lucky to have you as part of our community. If you have any new information, please email us at [email protected] 03-21-2020 UPDATE: We reached Dr. Gerdts directly, Director and CEO of VIDO-InterVac, a research lab in Canada that has been working hard on a potential vaccine for COVID-19. He said the following: “Thank you for your email and interest. We and others have shown that young ferrets can be infected with relatively low doses of the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19. The animals don’t get sick, but the virus replicates in them and they do shed virus for about two weeks in their nasal secretions. Current data suggests that humans shed more virus than what was previously seen for SARS-CoV-1. Although not proven yet, this may suggest that infected humans may be able to infect their ferrets, and that ferrets could infect other ferrets and potentially also other family members for a period of two weeks after infection. However, our data would suggest that close contact is necessary for this to happen. Distancing, no direct face contact and washing of hands after playtime would certainly reduce the risk. If the owner has COVID-19, I would suggest to avoid direct contact with the ferret as much as possible. We are just beginning to understand COVID-19. Much of what I have described needs to be confirmed scientifically, so please take my comments as suggestion rather than as fact.” Note: Based on our conversation with Dr. Gerdts and the information provided below, while it seems ferrets can become carriers for COVID-19 (contagious while “shedding the virus”), they will most likely show little to no symptoms or reactions to it (they don’t get sick). As he notes, new information is still developing, so check back often for the latest information! 03-17-2020 UPDATE: According to Saskatoon StarPhoenix, “Researchers have determined, through genome analysis, that ferrets are the best species for creating an animal model, where vaccinated animals are protected and non-vaccinated animals come down with the disease, said VIDO director and CEO Dr. Volker Gerdts.” What you will learn in this article: First, we are going to teach you the basics about coronavirus (COVID-19) to get you up to speed. Then we will answer all your questions about ferrets and all the potential risks. You can skip to the ferret questions but we recommend skimming the first section to give yourself a quick refresher on this mysterious virus. Where we got our information:– We spoke with Felicia LaJoie, a plant pathologist that studies different fungus, mold, and diseases in plants. She has her AS in biology and she is pursuing her BA in microscopy biology. She also has a real gift for explaining this complex virus in a way that every day people (like me and you!) can understand.– We contacted Dr. Volker Gerdts, Director and CEO of VIDO-intervac (a research lab in Canada that has been working hard on a potential vaccine for COVID-19) after a member of our community reached out to us (Thanks Corinna!).– I’d also like to thank @CaityJmck (Twitter) for reviewing this article for accuracy as well. Caity has been working in pandemic prevention and preparedness (and now response) for a couple of years and spends her days surrounded by doctors and epidemiologists. Please Note: Felicia’s responses are in regular text, and my notes for clarification are italicized. What is Coronavirus? A “coronavirus” is a common virus that typically causes cold-like symptoms. The virus itself looks like a little spherical cell with spikes, making it easy to identify under a microscope. There are many strains of coronavirus that are observed in animals, but not humans – and vice versa. According to Merriam-Webster, coronavirus is “any of a family (Coronaviridae) of single-stranded RNA viruses that have a lipid envelope studded with club-shaped projections, infect birds and many mammals including humans, and include the causative agents of MERS, SARS, and COVID-19 . This specific coronavirus that has everybody in a panic is called COVID-19. How is Coronavirus Spread? Coronavirus is spread by touch and is *possibly* airborne within close proximity. COVID-19 can live on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours. If you are sneezed or coughed on by an infected person, mucus droplets can contaminate you. The virus enters your body through your eyes, nose, mouth, or open wounds. This is why it is very important to wash your hands properly and not touch your face. Why is this strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) so scary for humans? The reason why there’s more “concern” over this strain is because it’s novel, or new, to being observed in humans. How is coronavirus different from the flu? They’re actually pretty similar, with both attacking the upper respiratory tract. Influenza generally comes with more severe symptoms, including lengthy fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Coronavirus (COVID-19) generally causes dry cough, short fever at onset of infection, and stuffy, runny nose. Both the Coronavirus and influenza become serious when they develop into lower respiratory infections, like pneumonia. Elderly and those who already have health conditions (heart disease, chemo recipients, dialysis patients, those who are immunocompromised and/or immunodeficient, etc.) are more at risk of developing pneumonia, which can be fatal to them. Since ferrets can get the flu, does that mean that ferrets get coronavirus? Yes, and no. Yes, they can catch other strains of less common coronavirus, like SARS. COVID-19 is not a strain that affects ferrets. Ferrets can be mechanically infected with COVID-19 by scientists, and they’ll test positive for having it, but show no symptoms. Their immune system and body do not react to this strain as ours does. However, ferrets are highly susceptible to most viral strains of influenza that people can catch, so owners infected with the flu have to keep an eye out for flu like symptoms in their ferrets. According to Dr. Gerdts, Ferrets can be carriers for COVID-19, though they are not likely to get sick from it. Are ferrets used for coronavirus testing? Doesn’t that mean ferrets get coronavirus? Yes they were a top pick animal for COVID-19 vaccine testing, because of their history of being prone to respiratory infections and their known ability to become symptomatic when infected with SARS. But scientists are finding that parrots and monkeys are candidates because the ferret isn’t becoming symptomatic [from COVID-19]. Can my other pets besides ferrets get coronavirus? Yes. Coronavirus is zoonotic, meaning it’s passed from animals to humans, and vice versa. Dogs are highly susceptible to coronavirus, as well as birds. However, keep in mind ‘coronavirus’ is a general term and refers to more strains than just the current COVID-19. Yes, pets can get a specific strain of coronavirus. That does not mean they will get this particular strain of coronavirus (COVID-19). How can I keep my ferrets safe? There’s tons of other viruses that are harmful to ferrets. The flu is at an all time high right now, but everyone is focused on coronavirus so the flu has been put on the back burner. Adenovirus, enterovirus, rhinovirus are all common cold viruses that are common this time of year. I would advise washing your hands before handling the ferret or its cage and toys. If someone is sick, they should distance themselves from their ferret, for precautionary measures. When sick and having to handle, feed, or clean, I would wear a mask to contain any spit, snot, or any other mucus that could become airborne with sneezing, coughing, etc. From Dr. Gerdts: “Distancing, no direct face contact and washing of hands after playtime would certainly reduce the risk. If the owner has COVID-19, I would suggest to avoid direct contact with the ferret as much as possible. We are just beginning to understand COVID-19.“ Feeling Stressed? You’re not alone. Navigating coronavirus can feel very overwhelming. The best thing you can do is be prepared. Is your ferret emergency kit up to date? Also take some serious measures to stay sane! We recommend you actively look for reasons to smile (ferrets help 😊 ). Want to know the easiest way to get your mind off of all this stress? Check out 21 Cute Ferret Photos that Will Make You Smile. Looking for a reliable, care-free pick-me-up during this tough time? Join our community newsletter here and get hilarious ferret photos from around the world sent straight to your inbox every week! You can even help us spread more joy (instead of fear) by sharing your own ferret photos using our ferret feature newsletter form. What Subscribers are Saying About Our Newsletter: “I love seeing cute ferrets and a funny caption in my inbox in the morning.” @lynio22 “It’s fun to get a cute surprise in my email that isn’t spam! lol” @tricianh “I get to brag to my mom that her (ferret) grandchildren are famous!” @zuzipelmeshka “It makes me smile.” @mekayla_medina “I don’t have a ferret, but they are so cute and the videos and pics make me happy :).” @robertinhacor So what are you waiting for? Choose joy! Join our newsletter and celebrate ferrets worldwide! Tell Us Your Story Many of us are home now right now and would love to hear how you are dealing with coronavirus. How is this pandemic affecting you?