When I heard that a tiger from the Bronx Zoo was positive for COVID-19, I started to worry about my own little lion, a tabby cat with asthma. I have kidnapped away from my friends and family, but could my business unintentionally put my cat at risk? While there have been cases of COVID-19 contracting animals, this is rare – and there are precautions animal owners can take if they are concerned about their fur family members. .
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted between animals and humans. In New York, the virus has apparently grown from an asymptomatic human to three lions and four tigers, including four-year-old tiger Nadia, who tested positive for the virus. The zoo says it expects all animals to fully recover.
Scientists are still unsure what type of animal has transmitted the virus to a person. A wet market, where animals, seafood and products are sold, in China was supposed to be the place where the new coronavirus made the leap. But a January study found that the first person known to be sick with the virus had no contact with the market. Another study found that the genome sequence of the new coronavirus infecting people was 99% that of the pangolins, one of the most trafficked mammals in Asia, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The pangolins could have been an intermediary transporting the bat virus to humans. Another analysis found that the genome sequence of the new coronavirus is 96 percent identical to a coronavirus found in bats, which have been identified as the source of both SARS and MERS.
Even though the virus has started a pandemic by spreading from one species to another, it is not common for coronaviruses to blow up such species and continue to spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the World Health Organization, no pet has transmitted COVID-19 to anyone in the world. The epidemics that are happening now are the result of people spreading the virus. Despite this, some animal rights groups fear that the mistaken fear of pets from patients with COVID-19 will lead to more abandoned and abused animals.
There have been a few cases of domestic cats and dogs testing positive for the virus after their owners fell ill with COVID-19. A 17-year-old Pomeranian in Hong Kong was tested “weakly positive” in February and died in March, but the dog may have just died of old age, according to information from the South China Morning Post. A two-year-old German shepherd in Hong Kong tested positive after his owner contracted the disease, unlike another dog who lived in the same house. A cat in Hong Kong and another cat in Belgium were also found to be positive. The cat in Belgium “has shown clinical signs of digestive and respiratory disease”, according to information from the National Veterinary Services of Belgium.
Cats may be more sensitive to COVID-19 than dogs, according to a study in China that has not yet been peer reviewed. Domestic cats that had been infected with the virus by introducing samples through the nose were placed in kennels next to uninfected cats. Researchers later discovered that one of the previously healthy cats caught the virus after being near infected cats, probably through respiratory droplets – in the same way that humans can spread the virus by coughing. and sneezing. The study dogs, on the other hand, appeared to be more resistant to the virus and did not transmit. There was no evidence that cats had spread enough viruses to spread it to people.
These results should be taken with a grain of salt as it was a small study in animals receiving high doses of virus. They do not “represent actual interactions between people and their pets,” said virologist Linda Saif of Ohio State University at Wooster. Nature.
If you develop COVID-19, the CDC recommends avoiding cuddling, kissing, sharing food and having other close contacts with your pet to avoid spreading the disease to them. Ask someone else in your household to take care of your pet if possible and to wash your hands before and after touching your pet if it is a service animal or if you should take care of it while you are sick. The same guidelines apply if you think you may be sick but have not been tested or are waiting for results. Wearing a mask around your pet is also appropriate if you are sick, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Because the new coronavirus can survive for a while on different surfaces, there is a small chance that our furry friends can carry the virus even if they are not infected. But the only study to date on how long the virus persists on surfaces has looked at plastic, metal and cardboard – not animal fur. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, it is generally more difficult for a virus to survive and spread to another person via a porous surface, such as hair or fur, since it is more likely to remain trapped in the pores of the material. The CDC points out that any animal can carry germs that could make a person sick, so whether there is a pandemic or not, it’s a good idea to wash your hands after handling an animal, its food or its waste .
The bottom line is that we will likely have to take similar precautions with our pets as we do with our loved ones. It means keeping a safe distance when necessary so that we can all stay healthy.