Coronavirus: Can Pets Carry Covid-19?

Date: 2020-04-08 03:56:38

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“There’s absolutely no evidence of any transmission of the virus from pets to people,” says Professor Vanessa Barrs, the Chair Professor in Companion Animal Health at City University’s Veterinary Medicine College.

Professor Barrs says, ““We are only seeing positive results in animals that belong to people who’ve got Covid-19. And what that clearly shows us is that this virus is being transmitted on very infrequent occasions to animals. But it’s not the other way round.”

She wants to assure pet owners that “the only way that you are going to catch Covid-19 is from another person.”

Professor Barrs recommends social distancing from your pets in some cases. “If you are sick and you think you may have Covid-19 in the same way that your social distance from other people, you should practice social distancing from your pets. It means washing your hands before or after you touch them. It means not sharing food with them, and it means not, not being licked in the face.”

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the new coronavirus, in what is believed to be the first known infection in an animal in the U.S. or a tiger anywhere, federal officials and the zoo said on April 5.

The finding raises new questions about transmission of the virus in animals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which confirmed the tiger’s test result at its veterinary lab, said there are no known cases of the virus in U.S. pets or livestock.

The 4-year-old Malayan tiger named Nadia — and six other tigers and lions that have also fallen ill — are believed to have been infected by a zoo employee who wasn’t yet showing symptoms, the zoo said. The first animal started showing symptoms March 27, and all are doing well and expected to recover, said the zoo, which has been closed to the public since March 16 amid the surging coronavirus outbreak in New York.

The test result stunned zoo officials: “I couldn’t believe it,” director Jim Breheny said. But he hopes the finding can contribute to the global fight against the virus that causes COVID-19.

“There doesn’t appear to be, at this time, any evidence that suggests that the animals can spread the virus to people or that they can be a source of the infection in the United States,” Dr. Jane Rooney, a veterinarian and a USDA official, said in an interview.

The USDA said it’s not recommending routine coronavirus testing of animals, in zoos or elsewhere, or of zoo employees. Still, Rooney said a small number of animals in the U.S. have been tested through the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories, and all those tests came back negative except Nadia’s.

The coronavirus outbreaks around the world are driven by person-to-person transmission, experts say.

There have been a handful of reports outside the U.S. of pet dogs or cats becoming infected after close contact with contagious people, including a Hong Kong dog that tested positive for a low level of the pathogen in February and early March. A second dog in Hong Kong tested positive for the Covid-19 virus in March after its owner was confirmed as being infected, the government said.

Hong Kong agriculture authorities concluded that pet dogs and cats couldn’t pass the virus to human beings but could test positive if exposed by their owners.

Some researchers have been trying to understand the susceptibility of different animal species to the virus, and to determine how it spreads among animals, according to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health.

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