Coronavirus: can your dog or cat infect you?

Published by John O. Kennedy on

In China, abandonments of domestic animals have been reported. In question ? Growing concern over the coronavirus. Howeverb: “there is no evidence” that pets can be infected and transmit this virus to humans.

The Covid-19 virus (the new name for “2019-nCoV”, commonly known as “coronavirus“) affects more than 100,000 people worldwide and has already claimed more than 1,100 lives. The hypothesis of the animal origin of this coronavirus being preferred, psychosis sets in slowly. In China, the abandonment of domestic animals would thus be more and more numerous, certain masters fearing that their companions would not transmit the coronavirus to them.

Radical and unnecessary initiatives, since according to the World Health Organization (WHO) “there is no evidence that pets / pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus”. And for good reason: there is what is called a “species barrier”, preventing the transmission of a virus from one species to another.

Coronavirus: almost zero risk for pets

This “barrier” has however been severely tested by various epidemics. SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which appeared in China in 2002 and caused nearly 800 deaths, had been transmitted from animals to humans. The same goes for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which appeared in 2012. But these crossings of the species barrier remain rare.

What about the Covid-19 virus? Her home has been identified as the Huanan South China Seafood Market, a market in the city of Wuhan, China, where live animals are sold. Its origin would therefore be animal: the pangolin, an already endangered species, and the bat, are thus pointed out for their respective potential role of “animal reservoir” and “intermediate host”, even if their implication is still hypothetical.

The track of a zoonosis, in other words of an infection which can be transmitted from animal to man is therefore privileged. But so far, no cases of coronavirus in dogs or cats have been reported. This was also the case during the SARS epidemic.

“SARS has been isolated from wild animals – civets – sold on the Chinese markets, but not from domestic animals,” said Anne-Claude Crémieux, infectious disease specialist at Saint-Louis hospital in Paris, on franceinfo.

Especially since for a pet to be affected by the Covid-19 virus and transmit it to humans, it should already have “been able to be in contact with an infected person with crossing the barrier in the ‘other meaning’, underlines Olivier Bouchaud on franceinfo. The risk is therefore almost zero.

There are different types of coronavirus

This information does not mean that pets cannot be affected by coronaviruses. And for good reason: it is a family that includes many viruses affecting several species.

Certain coronaviruses are frequent in domestic animals, such as feline coronavirus (FCoV), responsible for feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), or even canine enteric coronavirus (CCoV). However, they are transmitted only from animal to animal, and are not linked to the virus responsible for the current epidemic.

“The cat, the dog and the ferret can be reached by type 1 coronaviruses which cause digestive disorders. But it is not the same virus as that which is currently spread in the world from China” , confirms Dr Laurent Masson, veterinarian, on the website of the veterinary clinic of Passages.

Covid-19 virus: recommendations

WHO recommends, as a precaution, to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. A useful gesture, not to protect themselves from the Covid-19 virus, since nothing indicates that pets can be vectors, but to avoid other bacteria. “It protects you from various common bacteria like E.coli and Salmonella that can pass from pets to humans,” the institution said.

As a reminder, the procedure to follow in the event of signs of respiratory infection (fever, cough, breathing difficulties) within 14 days of returning from China, is to call 15.

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