Two new cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) found Texas have researchers and the rest of the world concerned. This is the first time a feline in the state has tested positive for the disease.
Researchers from Texas A&M began researching the effects of COVID-19 on pets in June. The two cats in this case each come from different homes, both in what are considered “high-risk” households. According to Fox News, the cases are also asymptomatic, meaning you might not otherwise realize these cats are carrying COVID-19.
“I can say that after we sampled, the owner let us know that one of the cats was sneezing for a few days after we left the house,” Dr. Sarah Hamer, an epidemiologist, told KBTX-TV.
The first positive case of COVID-19 in a cat in the United States was recorded in April in New York City. Following that case, the disease was found in a pet dog in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Based on current knowledge, there is no evidence that pets play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2 to people,” State Veterinarian Dr. Andy Schwartz said at the time.
The Texas A&M test cannot tell if the current cat cases were transmitted first by humans. Judging from the few number of pet-related cases in comparison to the massive tally of human cases, there is little reason to believe the disease jumps from humans to pets so easily. Still, it is possible.
There is a chance that pets can become infected in COVID-positive homes, the researchers maintain, but it’s nothing to worry about.
“Under no circumstances would an owner of an infected pet be asked to surrender their pets, and there’s no need to worry about a diagnosis. But when we do find out that a pet is positive, we would work with those owners to take preventative measures to make sure that that pet is staying home, it’s not interacting with other pets and is isolating in the same way that positive people would isolate,” Dr. Hamer said.
It’s also unlikely that you would contract the disease from your pet.
“There’s no indication right now that humans can get the virus from their infected pet,” Dr. Hamer said. “Our study certainly wasn’t designed to be able to detect that. We weren’t looking at the directionality; can the pets give it to the humans? Can the humans give it to the pets? But one important thing to emphasize is that we were sampling exclusively houses where at least one person has been diagnosed as positive.”
The two cats are the first and only animals in the Texas A&M study to test positive for the disease. Dr. Hamer says the group still has a lot to learn.
“Our study is very much still moving forward. We’re actively enrolling new pets every day, making site visits, so nearly every day of the week,” she told KBTX. “There’s a lot more that we can learn. For example, how long do infected pets stay infected? Do they recover? How commonly do infected pets have clinical signs? These are all things that will take larger sample sizes and more studying to be able to learn more about,” she said.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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