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April 23 (UPI) – People infected with COVID-19 who have cats as pets can pass the virus on to their feline companions, and the cats can develop life-threatening respiratory symptoms, according to a study published Friday by Vet Record.
In a study of two cats in the UK who lived in households with infected people and developed symptoms of the virus, one cat developed severe pneumonia and died at 4 months of age, the researchers said.
The other cat, 6 years old, had cold-like symptoms and conjunctivitis, or “pink eye,” but survived.
Each of the infected cats, along with nine other cats diagnosed with the virus worldwide, did not share any cat-specific genetic strains of the virus, according to the researchers.
“Our results show that the transmission of. from person to cat [the coronavirus] occurred during the UK’s COVID-19 pandemic, with the infected cats showing mild or severe respiratory disease, “study co-author Dr. Margaret J. Hosie told UPI in an email.
“Given the ability of the coronavirus to infect pets, it will be important to monitor human-to-cat, cat-to-cat and cat-to-human transmission,” said Hosie, professor of comparative virology at the University of Glasgow’s Center for Virus Research In scotland.
By the end of March, 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in pets had been reported worldwide – three in dogs and 11 in cats, according to the World Health Organization.
While there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus to humans, it appears that it can spread from person to animal, particularly at, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention close contact.
However, last autumn there was an outbreak of COVID-19 on mink farms in Denmark and fears that the affected burden could spread to humans resulted in millions of animals being euthanized.
To this day, “we have no sense of how widespread [human-to-animal spread] is, “veterinarian Shelley C. Rankin, who was not involved in the cat study, told UPI in an email.
“We know that animals in contact with infected humans are at risk and that the virus can be transmitted to them and in some cases can cause infection and clinical symptoms,” said Rankin, professor of microbiology at the University of Veterinary School Pennsylvania Medicine in Philadelphia.
For their research, Hosie and her colleagues analyzed samples from the 4-month-old female domestic cat as well as from 387 cats living in homes with people with confirmed COVID-19.
The second infected cat, the 6-year-old was found in this latter group, the researchers said.
The 4-month-old cat first developed
The owners took the cat to a veterinarian on April 15, 2020, which caused her to have difficulty breathing.
Because her condition worsened with severe lung damage, she was put to sleep a week later, it said.
The 6-year-old cat, also female, developed cold-like symptoms, including a cough and runny nose, as well as conjunctivitis known as “pink eye,” which causes redness and inflammation under the eyelid and in the “whites” of the eyes, they said Mayo Clinic.
This older cat’s symptoms went away on their own, and a second cat who lived in the same house didn’t test positive for the virus, Hosie and her colleagues said.
“Human-to-cat transmission appears to be rare,” Hosie told UPI.
“We tested over 350 cat airway samples before identifying one that tested positive,” she said.
However, based on these results, pet owners who have symptoms of COVID-19 should take steps to avoid transmitting the virus to their pets, Hosie and Rankin said.
“If you have COVID-19, minimize contact with your pets as much as possible,” Rankin said.
“However, the number of documented cases does not suggest that there is currently a need for a pet vaccine”. [and] I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon, ”she said.