Can farm animals catch COVID-19?

Close-up picture of cows in a field

With the rapid spread of the new coronavirus believed to have started in bats, some people might be genuinely concerned about their farm animals. Could the animals catch COVID-19? The answer is murky. 

While there have been no reported cases of pigs, horses, sheep, chickens, or cows getting COVID-19, their susceptibility to the respiratory disease has yet to be studied. And though some pig cells have been able to get the virus that causes COVID-19 in lab studies, it doesn’t appear pigs can catch or spread the virus very easily, said Scott Kenney, an assistant professor with the Food Animal Health Research Program. “There are a lot of unknowns,” he said.

Kenney, whose research focuses on viruses that spread from animals to people, is pursuing grants with colleagues to study whether various farm animals are susceptible to COVID-19. He will address the risk of animals catching or spreading COVID-19 in “Ask the Expert” sessions during this year’s virtual Farm Science Review, Sept. 22–24.

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