Cats or dog hugs may put you at risk of catching coronavirus, SAGE warns

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SAGE experts have warned that cats and dogs can transmit coronavirus to humans through their fur.The warning comes from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which provided the latest scientific advice to the government during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report indicates that the risk of pets transmitting the virus to humans is “average” – although the risk has been “high” for those with underlying health problems or a poor immune system.

THE SAGE conducted a risk assessment after two dogs were infected with the virus in Hong Kong and a cat in Belgium also tested positive after its owner became ill with Covide-19.

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AGE conducted a risk assessment after two dogs were infected with the virus in Hong Kong and a cat in Belgium also tested positive after its owner became ill with Covid-19 (photo file)

After reviewing the risks, sage reported that there was a “high level of uncertainty” in a link with pets transmitting the virus to humans.

The report states: “Until more information is available on the likely condition of infection of a pet in contact with a SARS-CoV-2 patient, we consider the probability of exposure to be at most average, with a high level of uncertainty.

“There is still a considerable level of uncertainty about the role of any of the pets in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

“There is no surveillance data and any level of risk is based on previous observations of HIV-positive animals in previous outbreaks, OIE precautionary advice and both cases in dogs in Hong Kong.



While a link was found SAGE said there was actually a greater risk of humans giving the virus to their pets in the first place (photo file)

“Pets can have very close contact with their owners, which could lead to the exchange of respiratory fluid; therefore, they may be exposed.

“However, exposure may not lead to infectiousness and infection in animals, and SARS-CoV-2 appears to be transmitted mainly from humans to humans.

“Until more surveillance data is available, a level of precautionary risk has been given.”

While a link was found SAGE said there was actually a greater risk of humans giving the virus to their pets in the first place.



While a link was found SAGE said there was actually a greater risk of humans giving the virus to their pets in the first place (photo file)

In response to the report, Professor James Wood, Head of the Department of Veterinary Medicine and a researcher in Infection Dynamics and Disease Control, said: “The paper reiterates what we know, that despite the fact that millions of people have had COVIDS19, the number of pets found sick or infected is still very small.

“Simply put, our dogs and cats can catch COVID19 in our home when they live with us, but only do so on very rare occasions.

“e document also examines the risks of pets transmitting COVID19 to owners and finds (with justifications) that the risks of owners catching COVID19 because their dog or cat is very low.

“There are more ways than a dog or cat that has been in prolonged contact with a COVID19 patient could carry the virus on its coat in another situation, but in my opinion this scenario is very unlikely, especially for dogs that tend to be less free roaming than cats.

“There is no reason why vulnerable people should stop cuddling their dog or cat. Everyone should maintain good hygiene standards with their pets and wash their hands throughout the day, as is generally advised, to avoid the risk of them contaminating themselves.

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