Cats May Get Coronavirus, Study Pushes New WHO Analysis

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Apr 8 (Reuters) – Cats can be infected with the new coronavirus but dogs appear not to be vulnerable, according to a study published Wednesday that led the WHO to say it will take a closer look at transmission of the disease between humans and pets.

File photo. A domestic black cat watches a cat out the window, in the town of Blecourt, during isolation imposed to decrease the rate of spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in France. March 29, 2020. REUTERS / Pascal Rossignol

The study, published on the journal Science website, found that ferrets can also become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the scientific term for the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. However, the researchers found that dogs, chickens, pigs, and ducks probably don’t get it.

SARS-CoV-2 is believed to have spread from bats to humans. Except for some reported infections in cats and dogs, there has been no solid evidence that pets can carry the disease.

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City who developed a dry cough and loss of appetite after contact with an infected caregiver tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday.

The study, based on research conducted in China in January and February, said cats and ferrets were found to be highly susceptible to the virus when it tried to infect animals by introducing viral particles through the nose.

They also found that cats can infect each other through breathing. Infected cats had the virus in their mouth, nose, and small intestine. Puppies exposed to the virus had severe lung, nose, and throat injuries.

In ferrets, the virus was found in the upper respiratory tract but did not cause serious illness.

Antibody tests showed that dogs were less likely to contract the virus, while inoculated pigs, chickens, and ducks were not found to have any strains.

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that it is working with its partners to take a closer look at the role of pets in the spread of the virus.

According to the evidence gathered so far, WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove told a news conference: “We do not believe they are playing a role in transmission, but we believe that they may be infected by an infected person.”

Report by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Edited in Spanish by Javier Leira

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