Questions and answers on COVID-19: Various

COVID-19 and animals

1. What is the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection from animals or animal products imported from affected areas?

There is no evidence that any of the animals or animal products authorised for entry into the EU pose a risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection to EU citizens.

2. What is the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection from contact with pets and other animals in the EU?

Current research links SARS-CoV-2 to certain types of bats as the original source, but does not exclude other animals as intermediate links. Several types of coronaviruses can infect animals and be transmitted to other animals and humans.

The role played by pets and farm animals in the epidemiology and transmission of COVID-19 is currently unknown. The risk of pets living in affected households being infected with SARS-CoV-2 has been documented, with a number of animals testing positive for the virus. Dogs and cats have both been reported as being infected by their owners and some other animals (e.g. ferrets and hamsters) can also become infected. However, current evidence indicates that it is very unlikely that household pets play any role in spreading the virus.

Outbreaks in small, farmed animals (minks) have been documented all over the world, including in Europe (the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain) and the United States, as well as among workers at affected farms. The risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from minks to humans is greatly increased when there are large numbers of infected animals in small spaces. Cases of infected humans spreading the mink-related SARS-CoV-2 variant further in the human population have been reported in the EU/EEA.

Other farm animals do not seem to be affected by SARS-CoV-2.

As a general precaution, it is always wise to observe basic principles of hygiene, such as frequent handwashing when in contact with animals.

For more information, see:

Surfaces and objects

1. Can SARS-CoV-2 be transmitted by touching  contaminated surfaces or objects?

All objects can potentially be contaminated with live SARS-CoV-2 virus through respiratory droplets from an infectious person, implying that people can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 through contact with surfaces.

However, the evidence indicates that transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from surfaces plays a very small role and that the risk is considered low. Rather, people are usually infected with SARS-CoV-2 through exposure to respiratory droplets (including aerosols) that carry infectious virus when talking, singing or generally spending time in the same closed space as an infected person.

On most surfaces, infectious virus will disappear within 72 hours. Studies in laboratories have reported viable virus on porous surfaces (textiles, cardboard, cash, etc.) for minutes to hours and on non-porous surfaces (plastic, stainless steel, glass, etc.) for days to weeks. In most situations, cleaning surfaces with soap or detergent is enough to remove the risk of infection.

ECDC recommends frequent hand washing with soap and water, or the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers, as well as avoiding touching the face, nose, eyes and mouth after physical contact with frequently touched objects, including banknotes and coins.

Page last updated 26 Apr 2022