By now, most of us have learned more than we ever wanted to know about coronaviruses, even if we avoided getting sick during the pandemic.
One of 2020’s biggest takeaways — outside the need to wash our hands and wear a mask — was that coronaviruses aren’t all the same. Some cause the relatively mild common cold. Others trigger more serious illnesses, including SARS, bird flu, and now Covid-19. Other coronaviruses affect dogs, cats, bats, and other animals, but kindly leave humans alone.
Now scientists believe they have detected another novel coronavirus in Malaysia, where a unique variation was detected in a young boy with pneumonia.
Researchers are now trying to confirm whether this coronavirus, which looks similar to other canine coronaviruses, caused the boy’s illness. If so, scientists may have just found the eighth coronavirus causing human disease–and potentially the first one transmitted by dogs.
But don’t worry. These findings, which were published in the medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, don’t mean we’re on the cusp of another global pandemic. Nor does it mean you should begin social distancing from your dog.
This study hasn’t proved the boy’s illness was caused by this novel coronavirus, or that this new strand is even dangerous for humans. Plus, other animals, including cats, can carry canine coronaviruses, so we don’t even know if a dog is to blame.
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Rather, this novel coronavirus, which was found as researchers began scouring old medical cases, simply points to the need for further research. This boy’s puzzling case, which occurred in 2018, is just the latest reminder that coronaviruses frequently mutate and jump between species, making proactive study essential.
“I think the key message here is that these things are probably happening all over the world, where people come in contact with animals, especially intense contact, and we’re not picking them up,” one of the study’s authors, Dr. Gregory Gray, told The New York Times.
“We should be looking for these things,” Dr. Gray said. “If we can catch them early and find out that these viruses are successful in the human host, then we can mitigate them before they become a pandemic virus.”
Check out the full study here:
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