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Scientists find evidence of human-to-cat COVID-19 transmission

TORONTO, Ontario (CTV Network) — The novel coronavirus has been well documented in cats big and small across the world, and now a U.K. study shows evidence of human-to-cat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in two cases.

The two cats were from different households and suffered different severities of the disease. Both of the cats had owners who developed COVID-19 early on in the pandemic, when testing in humans was less consistent.

The study, published in Veterinary Record, a peer-reviewed veterinary medical journal, analyzed swabs taken from cats for routine testing of common cat viruses including feline herpes virus. Through testing they were able to identify two cats who had the SARS-CoV-2 virus and upon testing the genomes found it was striking in similarity to the virus circulation among humans.

The owners of both cats had presented with symptoms of COVID-19 before their cats became ill, according to the study.

One of the cats with SARS-CoV-2 was a 4-month old ragdoll kitten. It presented with severe respiratory illness and eventually had to be euthanized. The second cat was a 6-year-old Siamese cat that presented with pink eye and nasal congestion. Its symptoms remained mild and it later recovered.

The study emphasized that there has been no evidence of transmission from cat-to-human, and that dogs, cats and household pets don’t play a role in COVID-19 infections in humans. However, researchers say that more studies need to be conducted to confirm that pets can’t pass the virus between animals or back to humans.

“Currently, animal-to-human transmission represents a relatively low risk to public health in areas where human-to-human transmission remains high. However, as human cases decrease, the prospect of transmission among animals becomes increasingly important as a potential source of SARS-CoV-2 reintroduction to humans,” Professor Margaret Hosie from the University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research and lead author of the study, said in a press release.

Prior to this study there have been reports of domestic cats in multiple countries testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 after their owners had been diagnosed with COVID-19, including two in Montreal. There have also been cases of the virus occurring naturally in cats and dogs.

Lions and tigers at zoos have also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

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Source: Orange County Register

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