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Cats in NY become first pets in US to test positive for COVID-19

8 months 3 weeks 5 days ago Wednesday, April 22 2020 Apr 22, 2020 April 22, 2020 4:04 PM April 22, 2020 in News
Source: ABC News

NEW YORK- Two cats in New York state have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, marking the first confirmed cases in pets in the United States, federal officials said Wednesday.

The cats suffered from mild respiratory illnesses and are expected to recover, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Experts believe the pets contracted the virus from people in their households or neighborhoods.

The results add to a small number of confirmed cases of COVID in animals worldwide. While it appears some animals can contract the virus from humans, there is no indication the animals are transmitting it to human beings, U.S. authorities said.

“We don’t want people to panic. We don’t want people to be afraid of pets or to rush to test them en masse," Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC official who works on human-animal health connections, said. “There’s no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people.”

The Center for Disease Control is recommending that people prevent their pets from interacting with other people or animals by keeping their cats and dogs indoors.

Coronavirus testing for pets is not recommended unless an animal has been exposed to a person with the virus and tests have ruled out more common possible causes, Dr. Jane Rooney of the USDA said. 

Veterinarians who think testing is necessary are told to contact state officials to make that decision. These tests are conducted at veterinary labs and use different chemicals than human tests, which have been in short supply throughout the crisis, according to the Director of CDC's One Health Office, Barton Behravesh.

For most infected by the coronavirus, the symptoms are mild to moderate, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults or those with underlying health conditions, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia, and can be fatal.

Rooney said that scientists are currently working to understand the potential for transmission to animals in homes, farms, and elsewhere. So far, it does not appear that livestock or poultry are susceptible.

The CDC did not specify where the cats reside in New York, but they do not live in the same area of the state.

The first cat affected by the illness began showing symptoms about a week after a human in its household had a short respiratory illness, though the person's ailment was not confirmed to be COVID-19, Behravesh said.

The second cat's owner tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the cat showing symptoms, officials said. Another cat in the same household has not shown any signs of illness.

Officials recommend that pet owners avoid petting, snuggling or other contact with their animals as much as possible and wear a face mask while caring for them.

Outside of the U.S., there have been a handful of reports of pets becoming infected after close contact with a contagious person, including a dog in Hong Kong. 

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo was the first confirmed coronavirus case in an animal in the U.S. and first in a tiger anywhere. The 4-year-old tiger began showing signs of the illness just days after the zoo closed because of the virus.

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