Health Care

COVID-19 might easily transmit among cats: Research

With sporadic reports in recent weeks of cats infected with the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, a group of researchers set out to determine whether cats can transmit the pathogen to one another.

The team behind the new study, led by worldwide virus expert Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Tokyo and scientists from the University of Wisconsin, said more research is needed to better understand whether cats could transmit the virus to humans as well.

Anyone concerned about that risk should use "common sense hygiene", said virus expert Peter Halfmann.

Those cases and the new lab experiment show "there is a public health need to recognize and further investigate the potential chain of human-cat-human transmission", the authors wrote.

The research found that within three days, the virus was detected in all cats that were inoculated, and within eight days, all formerly healthy cats also tested positive for the virus.

The researchers responsible for this work did attempt to grow viruses from swabs taken from the noses and rectums of the cats; they found that all the animals were emitting infectious viruses from their noses.

However, they said none of the rectal swabs contained SARS-CoV-2.

Last month, the Bronx Zoo announced in a press statement that five of its tigers and three African lions tested positive for the new coronavirus after being infected "by a staff person who was asymptomatically infected with the virus or before that person developed symptoms". Fortunately, none of the cats ever showed signs of being sick nor did any of them die.

The researchers also echoed the same thing, "there is no evidence to suggest that animals, including pets, that may be incidentally infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19".

More news: Serological surveys to look for COVID-19 immunity in Canadian population

"If they are quarantined in their house and are anxious about passing COVID-19 to children and spouses, they should also worry about giving it to their animals", Halfmann said.

Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a veterinarian and professor in the research team, recommends cat owners keep their pets indoors as they may contract the virus without the owner being aware.

Within three days, they said they detected the virus in all of the cats. There is no evidence cats readily transmit the virus to humans, nor are there documented cases in which humans have become ill with COVID-19 because of contact with cats.

So far, another case of a tiger infected by the COVID-19 in the U.S. has been reported as well.

Don't kiss your pets and keep surfaces clean to cut the chances of picking up any virus an animal might shed, he said. Each cat then was housed with another cat that was free of infection.

"Cats are still much more likely to get COVID-19 from you, rather than you get it from a cat", Keith Poulsen of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory said.

Does that mean our pets can infect us?

If you are COVID-19 positive, you should limit interactions with your pets to protect them from exposure to the virus.

"As always, animal owners should include pets and other animals in their emergency preparedness planning, including keeping on hand a two-week supply of food and medications", she says.

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