Cats can become infected with the new coronavirus. However, dogs appear not to be vulnerable, according to a new study in the journal Science, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to say it will take a closer look at the transmission of the virus between humans and pets.
Antibody tests showed dogs were less likely to catch the virus, while inoculated pigs, chickens, and ducks were not found to have any strain of the virus.
The disease is believed to have spread from bats to humans. There have been a handful of reported infections in cats and dogs, but no reliable evidence that pets can be carriers.
The study, published in Science, was aimed at identifying which animals are vulnerable to the virus so they can be used to test experimental vaccines to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
They also found cats can infect each other via respiratory droplets. Infected cats had the virus in the mouth, nose, and small intestine. Kittens exposed to the virus showed significant lesions in their lungs, nose, and throat.
The WHO said it is working with its partners to look more closely at the role of pets in the health crisis.
Based on the evidence so far, WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove told a news conference: “We don’t believe that they are playing a role in transmission, but we think that they may be able to be infected from an infected person.”
Meanwhile, a tiger at a zoo in New York City developed a dry cough and loss of appetite after contact with an infected zookeeper who tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) emerged in late 2019 in China’s Hubei province, and the virus has spread to 209 countries and territories since then.
To date, COVID-19 cases surpassed 1,500,000 globally, resulting in more than 330,000 recoveries and over 88,000 deaths.
On February 11, the WHO officially named the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) as COVID-19, and on March 11, declared it a pandemic.
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