For the reason that outset of the coronavirus pandemic, the potential function of animals in catching and spreading the illness has been intently examined by scientists. It’s because the virus that causes COVID-19 belongs to the household of coronaviruses that trigger illness in a wide range of mammals.
The proof means that this virus arose in bats and my colleagues on the College of Glasgow have lately decided that the sub-type of coronavirus to which the virus belongs has been circulating within the bat inhabitants because the 1940s.
So it is sensible for researchers to ponder whether or not the virus will be transmitted to companion animals, whether or not these animals can present signs of an infection, and whether or not they might play any function within the epidemiology of the illness.
Cats are the UK’s hottest pet – a 2019 survey revealed there are nearly 11 million felines in households throughout the nation. Public concern about felines was initially raised when tigers and lions on the Bronx Zoo in New York have been discovered to be contaminated with SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19.
There have additionally been sporadic experiences of cats from COVID-19 households in Hong Kong, Belgium, France, Spain and the US which have examined optimistic for the virus.
So, might our home cat inhabitants be by some means concerned on this pandemic right here within the UK? We determined to seek out out.
Trying to find coronavirus in UK cats
In early Might, my colleagues and I got moral approval to retrospectively take a look at cats for SARS-CoV-2 and work quickly started screening routine respiratory samples taken from cats all through the UK. We additionally launched an attraction to veterinary surgeons asking for samples from suspect circumstances.
After screening tons of of samples, this collaborative effort ultimately resulted within the detection of a cat with SARS-CoV-2 within the south of England, which had been sampled in mid-Might. Additional samples submitted to our veterinary colleagues on the Animal and Plant Well being Company revealed that this cat had developed an antibody response to the virus, demonstrating that it had certainly skilled a real an infection and confirming it was not a easy case of pattern contamination.
Circumstances point out that the cat contracted the virus from its house owners, who had beforehand examined optimistic for COVID-19.
At this level, the World Organisation for Animal Well being was notified by the UK Chief Veterinary Officer and the press was alerted. We’re at the moment getting ready a paper on our findings for publication.
Ought to I be frightened about my cat?
So, what does this case inform us? Our analysis coincided with the UK COVID-19 outbreak, specializing in cats experiencing respiratory signs. Our discovering of a single contaminated particular person among the many tons of screened tells us that an infection in cats is comparatively unusual. That is strengthened by the truth that the opposite cat within the family by no means grew to become contaminated, both by the house owners or the contaminated cat.
Though the cat had been experiencing gentle signs, together with runny eyes and a snotty nostril, these indicators have been in line with feline herpesvirus an infection, for which this cat additionally examined optimistic. There is no such thing as a proof that SARS-CoV-2 was making this cat in poor health and fortunately, the cat and its house owners have all made a full restoration.
It is very important respect that whereas, up to now, about 18 million folks have examined optimistic for COVID-19, solely a handful of contaminated cats have been detected world wide.
All accessible proof suggests, subsequently, that cats usually are not concerned in spreading COVID-19. Nonetheless, the significance of this kind of animal surveillance work is obvious, contemplating that 1,000,000 mink have lately been culled within the Netherlands and Spain as they’ve been implicated in illness unfold.
Our suspicion within the case of cats is that feline infections merely signify a “spill over” from the human epidemic, and we’re at the moment analysing the genome sequence of the virus from the case we discovered to analyze this speculation.
Our outcomes and people from different research, equivalent to work within the US displaying experimentally contaminated cats have been solely transiently contaminated, can present reassurance to the pet-owning public.
It’s impossible your cat has coronavirus, and if it does, it in all probability received’t be concerned in spreading it any additional.