DEAR READERS: The novel coronavirus now causing a global pandemic named COVID-19 should be renamed in honor of young Chinese doctor Li Wenliang. He was the first to raise concerns about this new virus, warning colleagues on WeChat about an outbreak of an illness that resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), later acknowledged as COVID-19. On Jan. 3, Wuhan police summoned and admonished him for “making false comments on the internet.” Li, a family man, returned to work, later contracted the virus from an infected patient and died from the disease on Feb. 7, at age 33. His death was no doubt due, in part, to the stress of being apprehended by the police and silenced by the government for spreading “false rumors.”
An ancient aphorism says that in crisis, there is opportunity. That’s certainly true for the hucksters hoarding and reselling disinfectants and “cures” at inflated prices, and the private-sector profits to be made from test kits, sanitizers, remedial drugs and vaccinations down the line. But there is also the opportunity for humankind to change and live more mindfully, since so many diseases that infect us come from animals -- those we should leave alone, respect and protect in the wild, and domestic ones like pigs and chickens raised under crowded, unhealthy and inhumane conditions. COVID-19 most probably came from bats caught for human consumption and held in an open market in Wuhan.
Hopefully, this global health crisis is catalyzing greater international collaboration in disease prevention and treatment. We may yet see the emergence of a United Environmental Nations that unshackles public health from politics, nationalism and isolationism, prioritizes the health and security of the people, and links public health with environmental and animal health.
Already, with fewer people traveling by air and road, global air quality is improving, and particulate air pollution is a significant factor in human susceptibility to respiratory infections. And there is another golden opportunity: With schools closing and more people spending more time at home, it’s an ideal opportunity to go to the animal shelter and adopt or foster an animal. This will occupy, entertain and educate children in the home and provide companionship for those living alone over the many weeks ahead. It is well documented that having one or more animal companions in our homes improves our physical and mental health, notably our immune systems, with children’s susceptibility to allergies being significantly reduced.
Animal shelters must practice due diligence -- health-screening staff, distance-spacing visitors and prohibiting any physical contact with animals. Adoptions must be done “on-sight only,” since this virus could be transmitted to a cat or dog after being touched by an infected visitor.
CONCERN MOUNTS FOR CHINA’S ABANDONED ANIMALS
Many residents who evacuated from Wuhan, China, as the coronavirus outbreak took hold left pets behind with enough food and water for a few days. Weeks later, many of them have still been unable to return home. Estimates suggest tens of thousands of pets were left in the cities of Hubei province alone, and those that remain alive are at risk of dying soon. To read more, go to cnn.com/2020/3/15/asia/coronavirus-animals-pets-trnd/index.html.
COMPANY HAS VETERINARY SARS-COV-2 TEST READY IF NEEDED
Idexx Laboratories tested thousands of samples from dogs and cats while validating a veterinary test for the novel coronavirus spreading among humans, and the company found no positive results in samples from either species. Company leaders said Idexx would make the tests available if it becomes clear that it is clinically relevant to test pets. (Portland (Maine) Press Herald, March 13)
DEAR DR. FOX: In the next few days, I plan to adopt a 4-year-old female beagle from a local animal shelter. She is currently living in a foster home, and the foster mom has told me that within five minutes of starting a car trip, the dog gets carsick. We live about 45 minutes from the animal shelter. Is there anything I can do to help her until I can get her home to my local vet? Even once I get her home, the trip to our vet will take at least five or 10 minutes.
I can clean up the mess in the car, I just hate to see her upset. I don’t know if the shelter vet will prescribe anything for this, since she will no longer be in their care. Is there anything homeopathic that I can give her? -- L.W., High Point, North Carolina
DEAR L.W.: Good for you for adopting a dog in need of a loving home.
One form of carsickness is more due to anxiety than motion-invoked nausea. Spray your car with an emulsion of oil of lavender, and have a few drops of essential oil of lavender on a bandanna around the dog’s neck before putting her in the car. One-half of a human Dramamine pill may help, given a half-hour beforehand.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)