In the very first ever episode of The Deal With Animals, back in July 2021, we took a deep dive into a topic that had been on the minds of many pet owners in 2020: Can your furry companions catch COVID-19? And if so, what are the implications for them and for us as their human companions?
I sat down with the incredibly knowledgeable Dr. Julianne Meisner, an epidemiologist and veterinarian based in Seattle. Dr. Meisner is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Center for One Health Research at the University of Washington
In this inaugural episode of the One Health podcast, I start with a brief backstory of how I initiated the podcast during the pandemic, primarily as a creative outlet and to explore my interest in the relationship between humans and other animals. This brainchild initially launched as a personal hobby has since grown into a global podcast, appreciated in over 75 nations. The Deal with Animals podcast not only explores the human-animal connection but has also started me mentoring others interested in beginning podcasts related to animal welfare, advocacy, and education.
In the primary topic of the podcast - health and wellness and embarks on a detailed discussion with Dr. Julianne Meisner, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Health at the University of Washington School of Public Health. She explains their ongoing study of COVID-19 transmission among pets, which began in April 2020 during the early stages of the pandemic. Their study's main goal was to understand whether household pets, primarily dogs and cats, could contract COVID-19 from humans, particularly as significant isolation led to intensified interaction between humans and pets.
One chief focus area was understanding zoonotic diseases—pathogens that animals can transmit to humans. Dr. Julianne Meisner explained that most diseases, including Measles, HIV, and COVID-19, have zoonotic origins and due to globalization, these diseases have the potential to become pandemics. Endemic zoonotic diseases, which primarily affect domestic animals, have been present among us for long periods. The diseases (examples include Salmonella, E.Coli) identified as part of their study were no surprise and were observed to cluster within specific households, signifying a human-to-dog transmission occurring quite frequently.
The information gathered from this study will be useful not only for COVID-19 but also for other potential zoonotic diseases. The study also provides helpful precedents on how people can protect their pets from COVID-19.
The episode concludes by emphasizing the importance of global cooperation in dealing with pandemics derived from zoonoses. Dr. Meisner also expressed optimism about the right people and procedures in place to detect and respond to these diseases early to prevent them from becoming pandemics in the future. While the world is still learning more about COVID-19 and its impacts, this episode sheds light on an often-overlooked aspect of the pandemic - its effects on our pets and broader issues surrounding zoonotic diseases giving us valuable insight into how we're interconnected within the ecosystem. As we move forward, it's crucial to keep having these conversations and continue focusing on these significant areas of study.
(This blog post was based on an AI generated script and edited by me for accuracy and additional information)