We’ll soon reach the time when I won’t bother reporting on every new instance of SARS-CoV-2 infection in an animal in contact with an infected person, but at this stage a little more discussion is probably still warranted. As part of Hong Kong’s One Health approach to COVID-19 (one that is sadly very rare), they are investigating human-to-animal transmission of this virus by testing pets of COVID-19 patients that have had to be put in quarantine when their owners were too sick to look after them. In addition to two positive dogs that were previously reported, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has now identified a cat that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The cat’s owner has COVID-19 and samples from the cat’s mouth, nose and rectum were positive for the virus by PCR.
This is not a surprise at all at this point.
The cat hasn’t shown any sign of illness. That’s an important thing to keep watching, as it’s unknown how commonly (if ever) cats may get sick when they are infected, but has obvious implications for cat health, as well as potential control measures and our overall understanding of the virus.
The messages remain the same:
- If you’re sick, stay away from people AND animals (as much as possible).
- If your pet has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, keep it away from other people. The best thing to do is simply keep the animal in the affected household if it’s been exposed. That way, if it does get infected, it can’t spread it outside the household.
- If an exposed pet has to leave the house (e.g. to go to a veterinarian for urgent medical care), a plan should be in place to limit the risks to anyone handling the cat in transit and on arrival at the destination.