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Can animals with no symptoms spread COVID?

This article was published on
April 21, 2021

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Yes, but mostly to other animals of the same species. Currently, there is no evidence that animals are a major cause of spreading COVID-19 and the risk of animals passing COVID-19 to humans is low. According to a recently published study in the New England Journal of Medicine, transmission of the virus has been reported between cats, none of which had symptoms. The study found that three domestic cats infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 were able to transmit the virus to three other cats with no previous infection. None of the cats in the experiment showed any symptoms during the course of infection, but researchers found the continued spreading the virus from their noses for about six days. However, the research is rapidly evolving. This is just the first study to document asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 in cats and as of now, there is no evidence of transmission of COVID-19 from cats to humans. Cats aren't the only animals that have been shown to spread the virus with no symptoms. Based on recent research conducted by the Dutch government, it is believed that minks infected with COVID-19 spread the virus to two human employees at regional farms. The minks were having symptoms of a respiratory illness, while another study about COVID-19 in animals has shown that mink can be infected with the virus without having any symptoms. Dogs, tigers, lions, and ferrets have also tested positive for COVID-19, but these animals all showed symptoms after testing positive for the virus and likely acquired the virus from humans.

Yes, but mostly to other animals of the same species. Currently, there is no evidence that animals are a major cause of spreading COVID-19 and the risk of animals passing COVID-19 to humans is low. According to a recently published study in the New England Journal of Medicine, transmission of the virus has been reported between cats, none of which had symptoms. The study found that three domestic cats infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 were able to transmit the virus to three other cats with no previous infection. None of the cats in the experiment showed any symptoms during the course of infection, but researchers found the continued spreading the virus from their noses for about six days. However, the research is rapidly evolving. This is just the first study to document asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 in cats and as of now, there is no evidence of transmission of COVID-19 from cats to humans. Cats aren't the only animals that have been shown to spread the virus with no symptoms. Based on recent research conducted by the Dutch government, it is believed that minks infected with COVID-19 spread the virus to two human employees at regional farms. The minks were having symptoms of a respiratory illness, while another study about COVID-19 in animals has shown that mink can be infected with the virus without having any symptoms. Dogs, tigers, lions, and ferrets have also tested positive for COVID-19, but these animals all showed symptoms after testing positive for the virus and likely acquired the virus from humans.

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What our experts say

Yes, but mostly to other animals of the same species. Currently, there is no evidence that animals are a major cause of spreading COVID-19 and the risk of animals passing COVID-19 to humans is low.

According to a recently published study in the New England Journal of Medicine, transmission of the virus has been reported between cats, none of which had symptoms. The study found that three domestic cats infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 were able to transmit the virus to three other cats with no previous infection. None of the cats in the experiment showed any symptoms during the course of infection, but researchers found the continued spreading the virus from their noses for about six days. However, the research is rapidly evolving. This is just the first study to document asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 in cats and as of now, there is no evidence of transmission of COVID-19 from cats to humans.

Cats aren't the only animals that have been shown to spread the virus with no symptoms. Based on recent research conducted by the Dutch government, it is believed that minks infected with COVID-19 spread the virus to two human employees at regional farms. The minks were having symptoms of a respiratory illness, while another study about COVID-19 in animals has shown that mink can be infected with the virus without having any symptoms. Dogs, tigers, lions, and ferrets have also tested positive for COVID-19, but these animals all showed symptoms after testing positive for the virus and likely acquired the virus from humans.

Context and background

With an upward trend in adopting pets from shelters during the pandemic, some people are concerned about the risk of animals spreading COVID-19. Additionally, there have been news reports of animals living in households and zoos testing positive for COVID-19, including tigers, lions, and domesticated cats and dogs. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that while the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 is considered low, current recommendations include isolating pets from any sick people in the household as well as limiting interactions between pets and people outside of the household. Both animals and humans can test positive for COVID-19 without showing symptoms.

Resources

  1. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Domestic Cats (NEJM)
  2. CDC article on Animals and COVID-19 (U.S. CDC)
  3. American Veterinary Medical Association article about COVID-19 in animals (AVMA)
  4. United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service report on control measures for the Dutch mink industry in response to COVID-19 (USDA)
  5. Pets and Other Animals (U.S. CDC)

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