South Korea provides free COVID-19 assessments for pet cats and canines

Companies are trying to tweak COVID-19 vaccines amid newly emerging mutant variants

Moderna and Pfizer have announced that they are ready to tweak their COVID-19 vaccines and are preparing for a possible booster dose to combat the mutated coronavirus variants that are common around the world.

Cats and dogs in the South Korean capital are being tested for COVID-19 free of charge when they come in contact with infected people and show symptoms.

In an online briefing, Seoul Official Park Yoo-mi said that pets infected with the virus must be quarantined for 14 days in their homes or in a city-run facility.

The announcement comes after a cat in the southeastern city of Jinju became the first animal in the country to have COVID-19 confirmed. The animal belongs to a mother and daughter who were among dozen of confirmed patients associated with a religious establishment in Jinju.

Last week the central government published guidelines for virus testing for pets.

According to the Park, officials are ready to conduct free tests on pets from Feb.15. Authorities will test pets because they are in close contact with humans – and not all animals.

Other local governments in the country plan to run similar tests on pets.

South Korea’s number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases fell below 300 for the first time in more than two months on February 8, as authorities slightly relaxed rules on physical distancing. Officials began keeping restaurants, cafes, gyms and other facilities outside of the densely populated Seoul area open for an hour longer.

Although cases are rare, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on their website that human-to-animal transmission of the virus can occur.

A small number of animals in the United States, including dogs and cats, have become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, after having been in close contact with people since the outbreak began, according to the CDC. Symptoms of the virus in animals may include fever, cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, lethargy, sneezing, nasal discharge, vomiting, and diarrhea.

FILE – A chihuahua and long haired tabby cat are pictured in Boston, Massachusetts on March 22, 2019. (Photo by John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Last spring, two pet cats tested positive for the coronavirus in New York – the first of such cases in the United States. The cats have been in close contact with people who have been confirmed or suspected of COVID-19. You had mild respiratory problems and should be recovering.

There is no evidence that animals play a “significant role” in the spread of the virus to humans, according to the CDC, and further studies are needed to fully understand whether and how different animals could be affected by the virus.

However, according to the World Organization for Animal Health, it is recommended that people who are suspected or confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 avoid close contact with their pets and seek care from another member of their household.

RELATED: Several Gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Test Positive for COVID-19: Officials

This story was told from Cincinnati. The Associated Press helped.