UK public health authorities have just confirmed that a pet cat has become the first animal to test positive for COVID-19 in the UK, Sky News reports.
This isn’t the first time a domesticated pet has tested positive for the virus’; pets in China, Japan and Europe have tested positive. In the US, a few tigers at the Bronx Zoo caused a stir when they tested positive back in April.
Though the British veterinarians who discovered the virus warned that this is a “very rare” event.
Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss explained it was a “very rare event” and infected animals detected so far only show “mild clinical signs” and recover “within a few days.”
Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, said the finding “should not be a cause for alarm.”
“In line with the general advice on fighting coronavirus, you should wash your hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals,” she added.
There is no evidence that the pet transmitted the virus to its owners, or was infected by them. The only details publicly known about the infected house cat are that it lives in England and was tested at a laboratory in Weybridge, Surrey last week on July 22.
The cat was reportedly diagnosed with feline herpes (oddly enough, this is a common respiratory infection in cats) by a private vet, according to the UK’s environmental department.
A sample was then tested for coronavirus as part of a research program by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, and the cat tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness.
The case has been reported to the World Organiztion for Animal Health in line with international commitments, Sky reported.
WHO and CDC have warned that pet owners shouldn’t worry too much about being infected by pets, though they notably haven’t ruled out such a possibility.