An open letter to the DG of Health, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, re statement on animals and the coronavirus

Dear Datuk,

We have been following your daily updates and have the highest admiration and respect for all that you are doing to save Malaysia.

However, we are now concerned regarding your statement in today’s press conference (in response to a question from a reporter) which said that animals who are infected with the coronavirus might transmit the disease to humans. Based on research, the feline coronavirus (FCov) does not infect humans and neither does the canine coronavirus (CCov).

Also, based on reports to date, there have been a few isolated cases where the Covid-19 virus particles were found on swabs of infected people’s companion animals, namely the Hong Kong dogs and the Belgian cat, but these are most likely cases of infected humans transmitting the virus to their pets. There is so far no evidence that animals can infect humans with the Covid19. It is reverse-zoonosis and not zoonosis (humans infect animals, not the other way around).

While your statement referred to the “coronavirus”, it is very unfortunate that some news media has misquoted you now. Instead of “coronavirus”, it has been reported as “Covid19”.

Our main worry is that some people may not know that there are various strains of coronaviruses, hence, your press statement as well as the misquoted statement and reports by certain news media might cause unnecessary panic, ie. people abandoning their pets or worse, those in authority reacting in ways that may be detrimental to the wellbeing and safety of animals.

Animal welfare organisations the world over are keeping a close watch on this phenomena and disseminating accurate information to pet owners and animal feeders so that they are kept well-informed, practise hygienic and safety protocols and at the same time, continue looking after the animals under their care.

We refer to the reports below. The list is not exhaustive.

(1) https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/coronavirus-update

(2) https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/3076480/coronavirus-hong-kongs-infected-dogs-were

(3) https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/pets/a31476524/can-dogs-get-coronavirus/

(4) https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19

(5) https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/COVID-19-An-Update-for-WSAVA-Members-April-3.pdf

We would be extremely grateful if you could kindly make a clarification in your press conference tomorrow so that no untoward incidence against animals would occur.

Again, we thank you very much for all that you are doing to save Malaysia.

Dr Chan Kah Yein
Founder-President
AnimalCare Society Petaling Selangor

Note: We have noticed that only a few news media have taken down their reports on this. However, some are still published and we view this with grave concern.

The Bahasa Malaysia version:

Kepada Datuk Dr Noor Hisham yang dihormati,

Kami telah mengikuti laporan harian Datuk dan amat mengakumi serta menghormati segala yang Datuk sedang lakukan untuk menyelamatkan Malaysia.

Namun demikian, kami kini berasa bimbang tentang kenyataan Datuk dalam sidang akhbar semalam (sewaktu menjawab soalan daripada wartawan) yang mengatakan bahawa haiwan yang dijangkiti dengan coronavirus mungkin menyebarkan penyakit ini kepada manusia. Berdasarkan penyelidikan sehingga kini, coronavirus kucing (FCov) serta coronavirus anjing (CCov) tidak boleh menjangkiti manusia.

Selain itu, berdasarkan laporan setakat ini, terdapat hanya beberapa kes terpencil yang mana zarah virus Covid-19 ditemui pada swab haiwan peliharaan orang yang dijangkiti, iaitu anjing-anjing di Hong Kong dan kucing di Belgium, dan besar kemungkinan ini adalah kes yang mana manusia yang dijangkiti (pemilik haiwan) menyebarkan virus kepada haiwan peliharaan mereka, bukan sebaliknya. Setakat ini tiada bukti yang menunjukkan haiwan boleh menjangkiti manusia dengan Covid19. Ia adalah reverse-zoonosis dan bukan zoonosis (manusia menjangkiti haiwan, bukan sebaliknya).

Walaupun kenyataan Datuk merujuk kepada “coronavirus”, dukacita dimaklumkan bahawa sesetengah media telah mengelirukan para pembaca mereka. Datuk mengatakan “coronavirus”, tetapi pihak media melaporkannya sebagai “Covid19”.

Kebimbangan utama kami adalah bahawa sesetengah orang mungkin tidak tahu bahawa terdapat pelbagai strain coronavirus, oleh itu, laporan media yang salah ditulis mungkin menyebabkan panik yang tidak diingini, iaitu, orang mungkin mengabaikan haiwan kesayangan atau lebih teruk, pihak-pihak tertentu mungkin bertindak dengan cara yang boleh menjejaskan kesejahteraan dan keselamatan haiwan.

Pertubuhan kebajikan haiwan di seluruh dunia kini sedang memantau fenomena ini dan bertanggunjawab menyebarkan maklumat yang tepat dan sahih kepada pemilik haiwan peliharaan serta penjaga haiwan agar pihak pemilik/penjaga mengamalkan protokol kebersihan dan keselamatan dan pada masa yang sama, terus menjaga haiwan mereka dengan baik.

Kami merujuk kepada laporan di bawah.

(1) https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/coronavirus-update

(2) https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/3076480/coronavirus-hong-kongs-infected-dogs-were

(3) https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/pets/a31476524/can-dogs-get-coronavirus/

(4) https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19

(5) https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/COVID-19-An-Update-for-WSAVA-Members-April-3.pdf

Kami akan sangat berterima kasih sekiranya Datuk sudi membuat penjelasan di sidang akhbar Datuk besok ini supaya tidak timbul kejadian yang tidak diingini terhadap haiwan.

Sekali lagi, kami amat berterima kasih atas semua yang Datuk lakukan untuk menyelamatkan Malaysia.

Dr Chan Kah Yein
Pengasas-Presiden
AnimalCare Society Petaling Selangor
Nobody wants to appear old. If it were possible, people would die of old age while still looking young! Fortunately, you can use various techniques and anti-aging products to eliminate or at least reduce signs of aging.

Nota: Kami menyedari bahawa hanya beberapa media sahaja yang telahpun menurunkan laporan mereka tentang hal ini semalam, tetapi masih ada banyak laporan yang masih diterbitkan dan ini amat membimbangkan.


5 comments to An open letter to the DG of Health, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, re statement on animals and the coronavirus

  • Lili

    Thank you! I don’t think the statement made by DG of Health was informative & guiding enough for the sake of pets & other animals around us.

  • Anne isaacs

    Im so worried by what he said. This will create more people to dump their pets on the streets..there is enough cruelty in Malaysia towards animals which government doesn’t step in. When has a
    Government ever said – be kind to animals? Wish someday YAB PM will say that …

  • Pamela Jayasinghe

    Thank you Dr Chan for writing in. Much appreciated. Hope DG will clear this up and the media prints it clearly or else there will be more animals abandoned. Catastrophe.

  • Duta May Bouquet-Brown

    On the 13th of March the World Health Organization ( WHO ) officially declared there is no evidence that dogs and cats can spread or be infected with the new Novel Coronavirus COVID-19, the same way as humans. Please do not abandon your pets or the orphan street animals that you are feeding. Thank you kindly Dr Chan for writing to Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

  • Lay Cheng Lee

    Thank you so much for this letter as you spoke for many of our concerns too.

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