Coronaviruses are relatively common; it was first discovered in 1930s in animals, mainly on domesticated chickens that are having respiratory symptoms. Human coronaviruses were discovered 30 years later, the earliest ones are isolated from patients with the common cold.
A lot of coronaviruses are discovered since then, the famous ones being those that caused major outbreaks namely SARS CoV in 2002, MERS CoV in 2012 and our most recent enemy SARS CoV 2, which causes CoviD-19.
This new coronavirus continues to ravage across the globe. As it greatly affects human lives, it is also having a dramatic impact on animals too, from the coughing tiger in New York to hungry monkey gangs in Thailand.
INFECTED BIG CATS
Seven tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo in New York developed dry coughs and other symptoms of coronavirus after being exposed to an asymptomatic zookeeper. Paul Calle, the chief vet at the zoo, exclaimed that this is the first time that any of us know of anywhere in the world that a person infected the animal and the animal got sick.
“The big cat named Nadia was tested out of an abundance of caution and will ensure any knowledge gained about Covid-19 will contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus,” the zoo said in a statement. Nadia, her sister Azul, as well as two Amur tigers and three African lions who showed symptoms are all expected to make a full recovery. The big cats did have some decrease in appetite but are otherwise doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert, and interactive with their keepers. The zoo said it is not known how the virus will develop in animals like tigers and lions since various species can react differently to new infections, but all the animals will be closely monitored.
It must come as surprising to most as relatively the number of people infected all throughout the world with pet cats outnumber those who may be infected and interact with tigers and lions. When the world saw a tiger infected, in which social distancing is already applied with regard to its care, it suggests that there’s probably some differences in how the different cat species respond to the virus.
Viral proteins and genetic differences in receptors that a virus uses to attack a person or animal differ between species, and those differences could cause the virus to be more severe in one species than another. The ACE-2 receptor, or angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, is the enzyme in humans the virus uses as an entryway. ACE-2 receptors are similar in felines and humans but there are differences. And it’s not the same among all cats.
There have been less than a handful of isolated reports of companion animals testing positive for coronavirus, including two dogs in Hong Kong. New studies by WHO suggests that cats (and ferrets) are more vulnerable than dogs.
Generally they cannot pass the new coronavirus back to humans but they can test for low levels of the pathogen if they catch it from their owners. There is currently no evidence that our pets will be able to infect us with CoviD-19 or that our pets will get sick of CoviD-19.
In general, pet owners should maintain good hygiene, including washing hands before and after handling animals, their food and supplies and no kissing them. People who are sick should avoid contact with pets and a veterinarian’s advice should be sought if changes in a pet’s health conditions are detected. There should be no cause for alarm, and pet owners need not to be overly concerned and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has since reiterated that there is no evidence yet that pets can spread COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection in the US.
They has released guidelines on how to cope with CoviD-19 if you have pet animals.
It is important to note that there are different species and strains of coronaviruses, some relatively harmless. Some are exclusive to animals and can never harm human beings and vice versa. There are coronaviruses however that can jump from species to species, much like our current adversary Sars Cov 2 and its predecessors, SARS Cov and MERSCov, which jumped from animals to humans.
While not a cause of alarm, this new animal infections, which is likely a case of the novel coronavirus jumping from humans to animals, must not be taken lightly. Further vigilance, monitoring and studies must be done to verify it’s capabilities as we hope that it won’t mutate into something that can go into an infection free for all with any creature it wants as this would make the virus even harder to contain. Again, a sigh of relief can be made for now as this is least likely to happen, albeit not impossible.
- Cat’s can catch Coronavirus April 9
- Dogs, cats can’t pass on coronavirus, but can test positive, March 5, 2020
- Lions, tigers and house cats: You won’t catch coronavirus from felines, experts say By Sandee LaMotte, CNN, April 6, 2020
- 3 ways the coronavirus is affecting animals around the world
- Coronavirus sickened a tiger at the Bronx Zoo. Does that mean cats are at risk? Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY April 6, 2020
- Coronavirus: Tiger at Bronx Zoo tests positive for Covid-19, April 6 2020