COLLEGE STATION, Texas — We already know that animals can test positive for the novel coronavirus. The American Veterinary Medical Association and CDC even suggest pet owners who test positive for the virus isolate from their pets to protect them. But to what extent do animals get infected?
Texas A&M's College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences is conducting research to answer these questions. They are working with the Brazos County Health Department to gain access to pets living in COVID-19 positive households; and in the process they've already found two cats from separate homes who have tested positive for the virus.
“At the time we collected samples from these cats at their houses, the owners did not report any signs of disease in their pets during the course of their own illnesses, but one of the cats later developed several days of sneezing after we tested it,” said A&M associate professor of epidemiology Dr. Sarah Hamer in a press release.
Dr. Hamer believes this shows that pets can be infected in high-risk environments, and therefore should be considered in the public health response to the virus.
“We know that [isolating] is probably really hard if you are quarantined at home and just want to snuggle with your pet, but it is important to do during a person’s illness to protect both human and animal health,” said Dr. Hamer in the release.
Despite the confirmation that pets can contract the virus, vets and scientists insist that you shouldn't be afraid if your furry friend tests positive for the virus. They also don't recommend testing your pet for COVID-19.
The research team at A&M will continue to take samples and monitor pets with positive test results. They will also attempt to isolate infectious virus from the swab samples, and conduct antibody testing from blood samples for all pets in the study to learn about animal infection and exposure.
“Our goal is to learn more about the different roles that pets may play in the transmission cycle of SARS-CoV-2 and to understand the timing of animal infections in relation to human infections,” said Dr. Hamer in the release.
She hopes that her team's research will help enhance surveillance programs to protect both human and animal health.
So far, her team has sampled several dozen households across the county.