- Researchers say the results are convincing.
- Their ten-year-old cat was also swabbed and tested positive.
- Nurse infected with SARS-CoV-2.
Sneezing hamsters appeared first, and now cats are doing it. The first conclusive proof of a pet cat infecting a human with SARS-CoV-2 has been reported by a team in Thailand, adding cats to the list of animals that can spread the virus to humans as reported by Nature.
Researchers say the results are convincing.
Studies early in the pandemic found that cats shed infectious virus particles and can infect other cats.
And over the course of the pandemic, countries have reported SARS-CoV-2 infections in dozens of pet cats.
But establishing the direction of viral spread — from cat to person or from person to cat — is tricky.
The Thai study “is an interesting case report, and a great example of what good contact tracing can do”, says Marion Koopmans, a virologist at the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
The feline finding, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases1 on 6 June, came about by accident, says co-author Sarunyou Chusri, an infectious-disease researcher and physician at Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai, southern Thailand.
In August, a father and son who had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 were transferred to an isolation ward at the university’s hospital.
Their ten-year-old cat was also swabbed and tested positive.
While being swabbed, the cat sneezed in the face of a veterinary surgeon, who was wearing a mask and gloves but no eye protection.
Three days later, the vet developed a fever, sniffles and a cough, and later tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, but none of her close contacts developed COVID-19, suggesting that she had been infected by the cat.
Researchers say that such cases of cat-to-human transmission are probably rare.
Still, Chusri says it is worth taking extra precautions when handling cats suspected of being infected.
People “should not abandon their cats, but take more care of them”, he says.
Other animals suspected of infecting people include farmed mink in Europe and North America, pet hamsters in Hong Kong and wild white-tailed deer in Canada.
But researchers say these are all rare events and animals don’t yet play a significant part in spreading the virus.
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