In a new study, researchers concluded that a veterinarian in southern Thailand likely contracted Covid-19 Coronavirus from a pet cat last year. Although experts stress that the risk of cats infecting humans is very low, this is the first documented suspected case of cat-to-human transmission of Covid-19.
According to researchers at Prince of Songkla University, the cat’s two owners, both of whom had Covid-19, probably passed the virus to the cat, which then sneezed in the veterinarian’s face.
Based on genome sequencing, it was confirmed that the Siamese cat, as well as all three people, were infected with the same version of the virus, which was not widespread in the local population at the time.
Scientists say cats are much more likely to catch the virus from people than to transmit it to them. However, the case offers a reminder that people with the virus should take precautions around their pets, as well as veterinarians and shelter workers who may come into contact with infected animals, said Dr. Scott Weese, an infectious diseases veterinarian at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
He said, “We often forget everything else as soon as things become human diseases.” “I think it’s imperative that we recognize that viruses can spread between species.”
Research has shown that pet owners can infect their cats and, in certain conditions, cats can transmit the virus to one another.
Cat-to-human transmission of Covid-19
However, it has been difficult to prove that cat-to-human transmission of Covid-19 occurs in natural settings. There has been evidence that minks, hamsters, and deer spread the virus to humans.
The story was published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, which is published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Weese said the report makes a strong case for cat-to-human transmission: “We have a pretty compelling story here.”
Symptoms of Covid-19 were reported by a father and son in Bangkok on August 4 last year, resulting in testing positive for the virus. The two men had to travel 20 hours by ambulance to a hospital in Songkhla because there weren’t enough beds in Bangkok. There is no explanation why they brought their pet cat.
Upon admission to the hospital, the cat was taken to a veterinary hospital for an examination.
Cat tested positive for the virus
Although the cat’s appearance seemed normal, the veterinarian, a 32-year-old woman, collected nasal and rectal swabs, which tested positive for the virus. When the veterinarian was swabbing the cat’s nose, the animal sneezed in her face.
Despite wearing gloves and a mask, the veterinarian did not have eye protection or a face shield.
On Aug 13, the veterinarian developed symptoms of Covid-19, including a fever and a cough. The veterinarian was diagnosed with the disease shortly afterward.
During genomic sequencing, it was determined that the cat’s owners, the siamese cat, and the veterinarian all harbored the same version of the delta variant. This was distinct from viral samples taken from other patients in Songkhla at the time.
Cat was the source of the infection
According to Worldometer, PCR testing, the siamese cat had a high viral load when it was examined by the veterinarian. Neither the veterinarian’s immediate contacts nor the pet’s owners were known to have had Covid-19 at the time, supporting the theory that the cat was the source of her infection. (It is not known whether she met with the owners later.)
Worldometer virologists recommend that if you are infected with Covid-19, you should avoid contact with your pets.
Dr. Weese said, “if you are trying to stay away from other people due to your potentially infectious condition of Covid-19, keep away from your pets at the same time.”