Researchers Find Some Risk of Coronavirus Transmission to Animals

Leah Koppenhaver, Editor

In recent weeks, eight big cats at the Bronx Zoo and two house cats in New York have tested positive for COVID-19, raising concerns regarding what animals can contract the virus. 

Because coronavirus is spreading rapidly among the human population, some animals may contract the virus if they come into contact with these sick humans. Researchers have not found any spread of coronavirus from animals to humans.

The first positive case of the coronavirus in an animal in the US came from the Bronx Zoo on April 5, 2020 which was a four-year old female Malayan tiger, Nadia. Three other tigers and three mountain lions that also initially exhibited similar symptoms to Nadia have tested positive as well, according to the WCW’s news release. An eighth tiger at Tiger Mountain that did not display any symptoms also later on tested positive.

All of the animals at the Bronx Zoo were infected by a staff member who was asymptomatic. 

Both of the house cats in New York displayed mild respiratory symptoms, and their owners had previously contracted COVID-19. 

Scientists have begun conducting tests to reveal the susceptibility of different animals that may be exposed to the virus. 

According to the CDC, preliminary findings have suggested that cats are the most at-risk species to the disease of those tested thus far, and in a laboratory setting cats were able to transmit the disease to other cats. 

Ferrets are among another species that were tested susceptible to infection but not as much susceptible to the disease and are also able to spread the virus to other ferrets. Dogs are also susceptible to infection, but tests results showed they were less likely to be affected than cats or ferrets. 

The coronavirus is not considered a zoonotic disease, meaning spread from animals to people, but it is still recommended those who are infected with COVID-19 refrain from contact with animals. 

Pet owners with COVID-19 should avoid interacting or caring for their pet if possible, though if they do come into contact with the animal it is encouraged they practice good hand washing and wear a mask. 

The CDC also recommends any contact with other animals living in markets (stray cats, dogs, rodents, birds, etc.) should be avoided. 

Any positive tested cases of the virus in animals should be reported directly to The World Organisation for Animal Health, OIE. The OIE has provided a high level of guidance for veterinary laboratories working with samples of COVID-19. 

“There is no evidence that animals play a role in the transmission of COVID-19 to people other than the initial event in the Wuhan market, and no evidence that any person has been infected with COVID-19 in the US by animals, including by pet dogs or cats,” according to the Wildlife Conservation Society