AGENCIES, New York: Till now, it has been widely believed that domestic pets are immune to coronavirus. But, here comes an exception: Two pet cats in New York state have tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the first confirmed cases in domestic animals in the United States, federal officials said on Wednesday.
The cats that showed mild respiratory symptoms are expected to recover. It’s possible that they contracted the virus from people in their households or neighbourhoods, the US Department of Agriculture and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The finding, which comes after positive tests in some tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo, adds to a small number of confirmed cases of the virus in animals worldwide.
US authorities, including the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, say that while it appears some animals can get the virus from people, there’s no indication pets are transmitting it to human beings.
“Now, obviously, is that impossible? I mean, biologically, no, anything is possible,” Fauci said. “But there’s no evidence whatsoever that we’ve seen from an epidemiological standpoint that pets can be transmitters within a household.”
Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC official who works on human-animal health connections, stressed that there’s no need for pet owners to panic, or rush to test their animals.
“We don’t want people to be afraid of pets,” Behravesh said. “There’s no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people.”
Scientists are working 24/7 to understand the potential for transmission to animals in homes, farms and elsewhere. So far, it doesn’t appear that livestock or poultry are susceptible.
Meanwhile, the infected Bronx zoo tigers are recovering well, said authorities.