Paw-ly in the pandemic: pets can catch virus from owners
A woman wearing a face mask walks her dog on a beach in Melbourne on September 11, 2020, as the city continues to enforce lockdown measures to battle a second wave of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
AFP/William WEST

Paw-ly in the pandemic: pets can catch virus from owners

(Agence France-Presse) - September 18, 2020 - 8:08am

LONDON, United Kingdom — Cat and dog owners suffering from Covid-19 can pass their illness onto their feline and canine companions, according to a small study released Friday.

The new coronavirus is a "zoonotic" infection — meaning it has jumped into humans from animals — and while there is little sign that pets play a major role in spreading the virus, there is growing evidence that cats, dogs and even tigers may catch it.    

In the latest preliminary research, which has not been peer reviewed, veterinary science experts in Canada tested the pets of a group of people with a confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis.  

In a first group, they took swabs from 17 cats, 18 dogs and one ferret whose owners had a diagnosis within two weeks. These were all negative for a current illness, except one unclear result.  

Then they gave blood antibody tests to eight cats and 10 dogs, whose owners were outside the two-week window, comparing these to control samples taken from the same animals before the pandemic.  

Among the cats the results indicated presence of IgG or IgM antibodies in four (50 percent) and three (38 percent) respectively, while two dogs also tested positive (20 percent).  

All cats and one of the dogs with antibodies were reported to have shown signs of respiratory or other illness at the same time as their owners. 

"While eligible participant number was limited by relatively low human transmission rates in the study area, these preliminary results suggest that a substantial proportion of pets in households of persons with COVID-19 end up developing antibodies," said study co-author Dorothee Bienzle, Professor of Veterinary Pathology at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

Independent experts commenting on the research, which will be presented at the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Conference on Coronavirus Disease later this month, said the sample size was too small to draw broad conclusions and that pet owners should not be alarmed. 

Sally Cutler, Professor of Medical Microbiology, University of East London said there was not enough evidence to warrant people attempting to isolate from their animals. 

"Pets can be a source of comfort for humans especially when unwell," she said, adding that it had not yet been demonstrated whether pets could be a source of human infection. 

Domestic cats and dogs from Europe to the US have tested positive for the virus during the pandemic, while in April New York's Bronx Zoo said a tiger had caught the virus, probably from an asymptomatic caretaker.

The World Health Organization has said it was unclear whether infected animals pose a risk to humans. 

Outbreaks in farms of ferret-like mink, however, have raised concerns of transmission to humans.  

At least two farm workers in the Netherlands were found to be infected with Covid-19 in May, most likely by the mink, with the WHO saying they could be the "first known cases of animal-to-human transmission".

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 17, 2021 - 7:45pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

June 17, 2021 - 7:45pm

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 3,835,238 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1000 GMT on Thursday. 

At least 176,966,040 cases of coronavirus have been registered.

The vast majority have recovered, though some have continued to experience symptoms weeks or even months later. —  AFP

June 17, 2021 - 7:42am

A repurposed arthritis drug has shown positive results in a clinical trial of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, according to a paper published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Tofacitinib, taken orally and sold under the brand name Xeljanz among others, was tested in a trial of 289 patients hospitalized with severe COVID across 15 locations in Brazil.

Half received the drug — a 10 mg pill twice a day — and standard care like glucocorticoids that tamp down an overactive immune response, while the other half received a placebo and standard care.

After 28 days, 18.1% of the group receiving the tofacitinib progressed to respiratory failure or death, compared to 29% in the placebo group.

This represented a statistically significant relative risk reduction of 63%. — AFP

June 16, 2021 - 7:52am

The US death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 600,000 on Tuesday, although officials hailed progress towards a return to normality as its world-leading vaccination program promised to turn the page on one of the worst health crises in American history.

The United States has racked up by far the largest national death toll  ahead of Brazil and India  after a heavily-criticized early response to the pandemic, but has since organized among the world's most effective immunization drives.

Progress against the coronavirus was underlined as New York announced more than 70 percent of adults had received at least one vaccine dose and the last of the state's restrictions could be lifted.

"There's still too many lives being lost," President Joe Biden said, noting that despite the daily number of dead dropping sharply, the continuing loss of life was still "a real tragedy." — AFP

June 14, 2021 - 7:22pm

The pandemic has killed at least 3,805,928 people worldwide since the virus first emerged in December 2019, according to an AFP compilation of official data at 1830 GMT. 

The US is the worst-affected country with 599,769 deaths, followed by Brazil with 487,401, India with 374,305, Mexico with 230,150, Peru with 188,708 and the United Kingdom with 127,904.

The figures are based on reports by health authorities in each country, but do not take into account upward revisions carried out later by statistical bodies. 

The WHO says up to three times more people have died directly or indirectly due to the pandemic than official figures suggest. —  AFP

June 13, 2021 - 4:12pm

The DOH logs 7,302 more COVID-19 cases, pushing the Philippines' tally to 1,315,639.

  • Recoveries: 7,701 new; 1,232,986 total
  • Deaths: 137 new; 22,788 total
  • Active cases: 59,865 or 4.6% of total
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