The role of animals in the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may be more significant than previously thought. A multidisciplinary research study revealed that cats can pass the disease to each other. Although the felines that tested positive did not show any symptoms of the disease, the researchers warned that further investigation is needed to ascertain whether there is a possibility domestic cats can transmit the virus to their owners.
Fox News reported that the study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, was the result of a research project conducted by the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, the University of Madison-Wisconsin, the University of Tokyo and other researchers in the U.S. and Japan.
In the project, six cats were divided into two groups. Three of the felines were injected with SARS-CoV-2 and then paired with the three who were not inoculated. Each pair was separately housed. Soon after, the virus was detected in all three cats who did not receive the virus.
The virus lasted about five days in the cats and none of the them showed any symptoms of the disease during the time the virus was detected.
The first COVID-19 case of a big cat at the Bronx zoo was reported on April 5, according to ABC News. Staff at the Bronx zoo, which has been shuttered since March 16, said that a four-year-old female Malayan tiger tested positive for COVID-19 and that subsequently more sick animals were tested, bringing the total of infected cats to eight, including five tigers and three lions.
According to The Blaze, the CDC announced that two domestic cats developed a mild respiratory illness and tested positive for the virus in late April. In one case, the owner was diagnosed with COVID-19 prior to the cat exhibiting symptoms.
Dr. Casey Behravesh, a CDC official, said in a statement, according to The Blaze:
“We don’t want people to be afraid of pets. There’s no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people.”
But the authors of the recent study say that their findings back up “the public health need to recognize and further investigate the potential of human-cat-human transmission,” according to Fox News.
The CDC does not recommend routine testing of pets at this time, but offers the following guidelines:
- Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household
- Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals and people
- Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals
- Avoid dog parks or other public places where a large number of people and dogs gather
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