COVID-19 FAQ’s & Pertinent Information From The Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

The Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (WVDL) is working at near full capacity at this time. Any delays in turnaround time are minor, typically 1-2 days.

Operational status is evaluated daily and information will be available on our website (https://www.wvdl.wisc.edu/) as well as available to current clients via email communication.

Please contact us with any questions or testing concerns as the need arises.

Please see the information and FAQ’s below to help mitigate any issues centered around diagnostic/regulatory testing and reporting that may occur during this delay in service. We are always here to provide top-quality diagnostic services.

WVDL COVID-19 FAQ’s & Pertinent Information:

The American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) Guidelines for Collection of Samples for SARS-CoV-2 Testing

Routine sampling and testing of animals without clinical signs is not recommended unless part of an approved research project. Please follow this link (SARS-CoV-2 Testing Guidelines) for more information on SARS-CoV-2 testing and then contact the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory prior to potential sample submission.

Q- What is the current turn-around time for testing at the WVDL during the COVID – 19 interruption?

      A- At this time we are running at near full capacity without delays in turnaround time. Some tests are not being run at the same frequency due to diminished demand and results may take 1-2 days longer than expected.

Q- What is the best way to communicate with the laboratory during this current configuration (COVID – 19 interruption)?

      A- The best way to contact the WVDL is through email at: info@wvdl.wisc.edu for any questions related to any diagnostic/regulatory testing, result reporting and/or result interpretation including disease consultation, management strategies, etc. Phone calls to our main number are routed to client services veterinarians and the pathologist on duty for the day.

Q- How will swine oral fluids be handled at the WVDL?

A- Due to multiple factors (shortages of staff and equipment shortages) we are NOT performing swine oral fluid testing during this critical COVID-19 period. At this time it is undetermined how long suspension of these tests will last and when swine oral fluid testing will resume at the WVDL. To expedite test result turn-around, samples may be sent directly to alternative labs that perform swine oral fluid testing. Please contact these labs to ensure testing is currently available before submission. If you are unsure of an appropriate lab to send these samples to, please contact the WVDL before sending your samples in. This will eliminate delays in result reporting. Thank you for your understanding in this break of swine oral fluid testing.

Q – Does WVDL test animals for SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19?

A- WVDL is accredited by the American Association of Laboratory Veterinary Diagnosticians (AAVLD). At this time, AAVDL does not recommend routine or blanket testing for SARS-CoV-2 of any animal species in North America. AAVLD strongly encourages adherence to the CDC/USDA guidelines (see guidelines here) for testing on an individual, case-by-case basis, as described below.
All AAVLD laboratories have limited resources to maintain core animal health capacities while assisting our human health peers respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in people. SARS-CoV-2 testing of animals in large numbers will compete for, and diminish, resources available for the United States and Canada to respond to the pandemic in people.
Purpose for testing, a key element in the validation of diagnostic tests that is to establish diagnostic sensitivity and specificity, has not been determined for SARS-CoV-2 testing in animals. Routine testing of sick animals is not warranted unless there is an epidemiologic need as outlined below.

Involvement of the State Animal and Public Health Officials is critical for authorization of testing of an animal of any species. Justification for testing should be communicated to those officials in each state for a collaborative and highly targeted testing, when needed. Justification for testing may include:

  • Common causes of the patient’s clinical signs have been ruled out and the history strongly suggests exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
  • Atypical pattern of disease suggesting a novel pathogen in a mass care situation, such as an animal shelter. The request for diagnostics should include a preliminary rule out of common causes of illness.
  • Atypical pattern of disease suggesting SARS-CoV-2 infection of recently imported animals. Appropriate diagnostic should be used for preliminary rule out of common causes of illness.
  • Testing is part of approved research projects gathering scientific information to better understand if and how pets could be affected by SARS-CoV-2 and help clarify the role, if any, of pets in human COVID-19. The project should have approved biosafety and animal care and use protocols.

Q – What happens if an animal is tested positive for SARS-CoV-2?

A- COVID-19 is an OIE notifiable disease and must be reported to DATCP (ATCP 10 Appendix A). All presumptive positive results require confirmation by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories. Because animal-to-human transmission has not been observed in the current outbreak, testing for SARS-CoV-2 should be limited to animals that meet one or more of the four criteria above. Routine testing without a defined purpose can hamper the national and international response and may cause harm (such as abandonment) to the welfare of pets. Additional guidance for positive animals (which are predicted to be very rare) can be found on the AVMA and CDC websites listed in the resources.

  • There is no specific treatment for animals diagnosed with a SARS-CoV-2 infection so testing will not alter clinical management.
  • Human to animal transmission events are believed to be rare.
  • There is no evidence, or belief by human and animal health officials, that animals play a significant role in infection of people with SARS-CoV-2.
  • Disease prevention measures appropriate for sick animals should be implemented regardless of the decision to test or if the animal is found to be infected. These are routine best practice for animals with a known or suspected infectious disease; owners should be educated to:
    • Follow routine infection control practices (hand hygiene, appropriate waste disposal, etc).
    • Restrict movement of the animal outside the home while it is ill.
    • Minimize contact within the home to the ill animal.

Please visit the following veterinary resources for the most current up-to-date developments on COVID-19.

The State of Wisconsin created a webpage that offers resources from various agencies and answers to critical questions. Here are a few other resources that might be helpful during this challenging time:

The following information regarding Companion Animal Coronavirus Testing is being shared from the USDA on March 18, 2020 –

FAQ on Companion Animal Coronavirus Testing
*Note: The scientific name of the new strain of coronavirus is SARS-CoV-2. In people, the disease caused by the virus is commonly referred to as COVID-19. Because we are addressing the virus itself in the context of animal health, we refer to it as SARS-CoV-2.

Q- What should I do if I think my animal has the new strain (SARS-CoV-2) of coronavirus?

A- Consult your veterinarian with any questions about your animal’s health. Make sure to tell your veterinarian if your animal was exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and if your animal is experiencing or displaying any symptoms. Veterinarians who believe an animal should be tested will contact state animal health officials, who will work with public and animal health authorities to decide whether samples should be collected and tested.

Q- Who should collect samples from animals?

A- After the decision is made to test, the state animal health officials will designate a state-appointed veterinarian, USDA accredited veterinarian, or Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostician (FADD) to collect the sample using appropriate personal protective equipment and sample collection methods.

Q- What sample types will be collected?

A- Oral, nasal and rectal/fecal swabs should be collected per OIE recommendations and according to established sample collection protocols. Please store oral and nasal swabs in separate vials. If desired/agreed, collect blood samples (for archiving – testing not yet available) in sterile tubes (Vacutainer preferred, SST optional). The tubes should be spun and the serum be removed and placed in a clean tube and refrigerated. Do not freeze whole blood or samples with the clot remaining. It is not necessary to remove the serum from the SST tubes prior to shipping.

Q- How should samples be stored?

A- Samples should be stored in viral transport media (e.g., universal VTM or BHI); dry swabs are not acceptable for testing. Samples may be stored at 2-8°C for up to 72 hours after collection. Serum may be frozen at -20°C.

Q- How should samples be packaged and labelled?

A- Please follow NVSL protocols for packaging and labeling submissions to the NVSL. Label the samples per other diagnostic samples with potential to infect humans, under code “UN2814”. Maintain sample cold chain using gel ice packs.

Q- How should samples be submitted to NVSL?

A- Please follow the NVSL sample submission procedure. Please also call ahead of sample shipment – during business hours 515-337-7551 – and email the specimen submission form (VS 10-4) and tracking information to: NVSL.DVL.Heads@usda.gov.

Q- What is the reporting process?

A- Labs should follow their reporting process; however, no results should be reported publicly until confirmed by NVSL; SARS-CoV-2 detection in any animal is currently reportable per OIE guidance.

Thank you for taking the time to read this information. Please contact us at any time with questions or concerns. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation during these unprecedented times.

Stay well & Best regards – WVDL