Our friends furry felines seem to be susceptible to getting covid-19disease caused by the coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Worse yet, the cats in the study were able to infect each other, although they showed no signs of disease.
The ferrets also were able to catch the virus, but did not appear to hurt them. Dogs, on the other hand, were not susceptible, according to the study. The virus appeared in the faeces of five dogs, but we did not find any infectious virus. Pigs, hens and ducks were not very hospitable for the virus.
But there is no need for lovers of cats or ferrets to panic, experts say. There is No evidence that pets can become seriously ill or die from the novel coronavirus.
“Yes, people should embrace their pets. These researchers showed the virus by the nose of the cat at high concentration, which is quite artificial,” said Dr. John Williams, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University Medical Center of Pittsburgh the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Without exposure to realistic
The laboratory experiment used a scenario that is completely unrealistic, experts say. First, the researchers forced extremely high doses of virus in the nostrils of five domestic cats 8 months of age.
The cats in our homes or even in the nature they would never be exposed to that level of virus.
“That is a lot more than what an average human would,” said infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Vanderbilt in Nashville.
“So, this is a circumstance that is artificial and we don’t know if it happens in nature,” added Schaffner.
Two of the five cats were euthanized six days later. The researchers found particles of virus in their respiratory systems upper.
The three infected cats remaining were placed in a cage adjacent to three cats who were not infected. Later, one of those three cats tested positive for the virus, while the other two are not. Even so, the researchers saw that the virus could be transmitted through respiratory droplets.
Or did he? None of the infected cats showed signs of illness, and even if you could transmit the virus to one another, that does not mean that they could transmit it to humans.
That’s what happened almost two decades ago with a coronavirus brother named SARS-CoV, which causes the deadly respiratory disease similar to pneumonia called SARS.
As now, science found that cats could be infected with SARS-CoV and infect other cats. But the virus is not transmitted widely among domestic cats during the pandemic from 2002 to 2004, nor was there any known cases of transmission to humans.
It also affects ferrets
The study found that ferrets were also replicators “efficient” of the virus, which means that the virus can grow and reproduce readily on his long and slippery bodies.
“The SARS-CoV-2 can replicate in the upper respiratory tract of ferrets up for eight days, without causing serious illness or death,” said the study. The investigation did not consider a longer time frame.
This is good news for researchers looking for a way to test any vaccine for future SARS-CoV-2, also called novel coronavirus.
“It is necessary to have an animal model to make initial tests of vaccines and to understand how viruses cause diseases. Therefore, this will be useful to the field,” explained Williams.
In reality, it is not surprising that the ferrets seem to respond to the new coronavirus. The lung and airways of a ferret are strikingly similar to those of a human. In fact, ferrets biologically and physiologically they are more similar to humans than to a mouse or rat.
“Ferrets are animals that are classics in the study on the flu; it’s been done for decades,” said Schaffner. “If scientists were looking for an animal model, first seek the ferrets”.
What this means
Does your cat or ferret is sick with coronavirus? According to experts, it is very unlikely that they point to the fact that surely we would have heard of many cases in pets, considering the significant spillover of the virus in United States and Europe.
Hong Kong has quarantined the animals belonging to people diagnosed with covid-19 and has only found two cases of positive results in dogs. The dogs showed no signs of disease during quarantine.
Oddly enough, it seems that a cat in Belgium could have contracted the virus in march of its owner, who was sick with covid-19 after returning from a visit to Italy. But despite the fact that the cat had respiratory problems and high levels of the virus in the vomit and faeces, the researchers are not yet sure if the cat had covid-19, or other illness.
“Although it was reported that two dogs (Hong Kong) and a cat (Belgium) were infected with SARS-CoV-2, experts in infectious diseases and multiple international organizations and national human and animal health agree that there is no evidence at this time to indicate that pets transmit covid-19 to other animals, including people,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA for its acronym in English) on their web site.
AVMA and the Centers for Control and Prevention of Diseases of the USA recommended to take normal precautions when cleaning litter boxes and feed the animals.
“As a precaution”, the AVMA suggests that any person who is sick with symptoms of coviod-19 limit contact at this time, “until more information is known about the virus.”
“Have another member of your household be in charge of walking, feeding and playing with your pet,” says the AVMA. “If you have a service animal you must care for your pet, use a facial mask; do not share food, do not kiss or embrace him and lávete hands before and after any contact with them.”