The cats, who suffered from mild respiratory illnesses and are expected to heal, are believed to have contracted the virus from people in their homes and neighborhoods, said the United States Department of Agriculture and the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The discovery, which follows cases of coronaviruses in certain tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo, adds to a small number of confirmed cases of viruses in animals worldwide. Authorities in the United States say that although it appears that some animals may contract the virus, there is no evidence that animals transmit it to humans.
“We don’t want people to panic. We don’t want people to be afraid of pets “or to rush to test them en masse, said Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC official who works on the relationships between human and animal health. “There is no evidence that animals play a role in the spread of this disease to people. “
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Still, the CDC recommends that people prevent their pets from interacting with people or animals outside their home – by keeping cats inside and dogs outside dog parks, for example.
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Coronavirus testing for pets is not recommended unless an animal has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and the animal has symptoms of the disease – and tests have ruled out causes more common possible, said Dr. Jane Rooney of the USDA. Veterinarians who believe screening is warranted are expected to contact state officials to decide.
Barton Behravesh said that animal testing is done in veterinary laboratories and uses chemicals other than human testing, which were rare during the crisis.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as a fever and cough, which go away within two to three weeks. For some, especially the elderly and the elderly, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia, and can be fatal.
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Scientists are trying to understand the potential for transmission to animals in homes, farms and elsewhere. So far, cattle and poultry do not appear to be susceptible, said Rooney.
The two cats live in different parts of the state; the USDA and the CDC would not say where specifically.
The first cat became ill about a week after someone in his household had a short respiratory illness, although the person’s illness was not confirmed COVID-19, said Barton Behravesh. The animal sometimes goes outside and could have come into contact with an infected person in the area, she said.
The owner of the second cat tested positive for COVID-19 before the cat got sick, officials said. Another cat in the same house showed no signs of illness.
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The agencies have recommended that all pet owners with COVID-19 avoid as much as possible hugging, cuddling or other contact with their animals, including wearing a face covering while taking care of them.
There have been a handful of reports outside of the United States of infected pet dogs or cats after close contact with contagious people, including a Hong Kong dog that tested positive at a low level of pathogen in February and early March. Agricultural authorities in Hong Kong have concluded that companion dogs and cats cannot transmit the virus to humans, but can be positive if exposed by their owners.
A tiger from the Bronx Zoo had what was believed to be the first confirmed case of coronavirus in an animal in the United States, or a tiger anywhere. The 4-year-old Malaysian tiger, named Nadia, was tested after he started showing signs of illness on March 27, 11 days after the zoo closed to the public due to the virus.
Three other tigers and three lions later showed symptoms. All are recovering.
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Zoo officials said they thought the animals were exposed by one or more keepers who had the virus but were symptom-free at the time.
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© 2020 The Associated Press