Can Pets be Infected by Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

According to the Belgian Federal Public Health Service (FPS), a pet cat in Belgium has been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that has been spreading around the globe. The question “Can Pets be Infected by Coronavirus (COVID-19)?” arises in almost every pet owner’s mind and this article contains all the answers to this question.

Can Pets be Infected by Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

“This is the first known human-to-cat transmission of the new coronavirus strain. A week ago, the pet’s owner caught COVID-19 and after returning home from a trip to northern Italy, his cat began to develop symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and respiratory problems, “said Steven Van Gucht, Virologist, and spokesperson for questions about the pandemic in Belgium.

The owner, whose name has not been released, sent samples of the animal’s vomit and feces to Dr. Daniel Desmecht’s laboratory at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Liège.

“The cat recovered after 9 days,” said Van Gucht. According to the expert, cats and humans seem to have a similar “knob” on the surface of their respiratory cells that allows the SARS-CoV-2 virus to get inside.

In humans, scientists have found that the coronavirus embeds itself in a receptor protein called ACE2, on the outside of the respiratory cells. Once inside it, the virus hijacks certain machinery in order to replicate itself.

“The feline ACE2 protein assimilates into its human counterpart, which is probably the cellular receptor used by Sars-CoV-2 to enter,” explained Van Gucht.

The only other pets thought to have been infected with the new coronavirus by their owners are two dogs in Hong Kong. The first dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, showed a weak positive after submitting it to the corresponding test in late February. He died in mid-March, although the exact cause is unknown since the owner did not allow an autopsy. The second dog, a German shepherd, tested positive but showed no symptoms of the disease.

During the outbreak of other coronaviruses, such as SARS, dogs and cats contracted the virus at very low levels, said animal health expert  Vanessa Barrs , to the South Morning Post .

There have been no reports of pets passing the virus on to their human owners, and Van Guchtn noted that even human-pet transmission does not represent a significant pathway for viral spread.

“We think the cat is a collateral victim of the human epidemic and does not play a significant role in the spread of the virus,” he noted.

To definitively prove that the cat was infected with SARS-CoV-2, scientists will need a blood sample to look for the specific antibodies generated in response. These tests will take place once the animal is no longer quarantined.

Source: Live Science.

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