Cases of Coronavirus spreading from humans to pets rise; still no evidence of animal-to-human transmission
While it appears that animals can get the virus from people, there is no indication that pets are transmitting it to human beings.
In a new case of animals getting infected with the novel Coronavirus, minks at two fur farms, in the Netherlands have tested positive. They had shown signs of respiratory issues.
The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement that some staff at the two farms had earlier displayed symptoms of the disease so it is assumed that these are human-to-animal infections. As a precaution, authorities are closing roads within 400 meters of the affected farms in North Brabant, which is the Dutch region the hardest hit by the Coronavirus.
Previous research has shown that ferrets, and therefore minks, are also susceptible to COVID-19 contamination.
These minks were not the first animal to be infected with the virus. Recently, two cats, living in two different parts of New York were tested positive as well. It is believed that they might've contracted the virus from people in their households or neighbourhoods.
The first cat fell ill a week after a person in its household got sick and showed signs of respiratory illness, which was not confirmed as COVID-19. But there is a possibility that the cat could've contracted it from anyone else in the area.
The owner of the second cat tested positive for COVID-19 before the cat became sick but another cat in the same home did not show any signs of the illness. The cats’ symptoms included coughing and slightly runny noses, officials said.
Another pet cat in Hong Kong was also tested positive for the novel coronavirus after its owner was confirmed to be infected with the virus, the city's Agricultural and Fisheries department stated. They also warned that the cat had not shown any signs of being infected. Samples were collected from the cat's mouth, nose, and rectum, which came back positive before it was put into quarantine on 30 March.
A statement from the Hong Kong Veterinary Association reported that a cat, in Belgium, had also got infected after its owner tested positive.
Nadia, a four-year-old tiger at the Bronx Zoo, New York, along with three other tigers and three lions have also added their names to the growing lists of animals that have been infected with COVID-19. Nadia developed a dry cough after coming in contact with an asymptomatic employee and was tested positive for coronavirus. The zoo has no idea who the employee is and the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a statement, that all of the cats are expected to recover.
A Pomeranian dog in Hong Kong was one of the first reported cases of human-animal transmission. He was tested after his owner was tested positive for the virus and the dog was taken to an animal quarantine facility. Tests conducted on swabs collected from the dog’s nose and throat unexpectedly revealed that he too was infected.
After the first case of pets getting infected was reported, there were a lot of simultaneous reports that showed an increase in the number of animals that were abandoned by their owners due to the fear that they will spread the disease. Till now, there has been no evidence that any animal has spread the disease to their owner as yet.
Q: Can pets at home spread the new #coronavirus (2019-nCoV)?
A: At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs, cats can be infected with the virus.
However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets pic.twitter.com/aJD53T8Fsx
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 27, 2020
Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that while it appears some animals can get the virus from people, there are no indication pets are transmitting it to human beings.
“Now, obviously, is that impossible? I mean, biologically, no, anything is possible,” Fauci said. “But there’s no evidence whatsoever that we’ve seen from an epidemiological standpoint that pets can be transmitters within a household.”
Health agencies have recommended that pet owners to exhibit caution and to avoid petting, snuggling or other contacts with their animals as much as possible if they are infected or suspected to be infected. The CDC also recommends that people wear a mask or cover their faces while caring for their pets in order to not spread the disease to them. The US health agency has asked people to prevent their pets from interacting with other people or animals outside their homes - by keeping cats indoors and dogs out of dog parks. Walk dogs on a leash and maintain at least two meters distance from other people and animals.
Coronavirus testing is still extremely limited and using tests for pets isn’t recommended unless an animal has been exposed to a person with COVID-19 and is showing symptoms.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness in people and in animals. This novel coronavirus originates from bats but it is believed that it was transferred to human beings via another animal carrier with snakes and pangolins being the number one suspects. The wet market in Wuhan, China is believed to be ground zero of the virus with the first case being traced back there.
Chinese scientists have found that the virus after it transferred to humans, spreads from person to person via respiratory droplets. However the virus is an evolving situation and four months since the first case was detected in December 2019, there is still a lot we do not know about it. With each new case detected and study being conducted, there is a lot of new information that is being released.
With inputs from agencies
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