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First case of a cat infected with the new coronavirus in Spain

· It has been transmitted through several people in his family, who were affected by COVID-19
· The ability of these animals to transmit the virus to humans or other animals is “negligible”, recall CReSA researchers

Researchers from the Animal Health Research Center (CReSA) of the Institute for Agri-Food Research and Technology (IRTA) have detected the first cat infected with the new coronavirus in Spain. With this, there are six cases of cats with coronavirus detected so far around the world. The cat belonged to a family unit with several people affected by COVID-19. “The chain of transmission of viruses occurs from people to cats, and these are the collateral victims of the disease in humans,” says Joaquim Segalés, IRTA-CReSA researcher and professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), which recalls that the predominant route of transmission of COVID-19 is from human to human, and that the ability of cats to transmit the disease is negligible; that is, they do not play a significant role in the epidemiology of the disease. “

Now that new coronavirus infections have spread widely among the human population, “it is possible that some animals become infected through close contact with infected people,” says Natàlia Majó, director of CReSA and professor at the UAB. Scientific studies published so far suggest that cats are one of the animal species susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection; ferrets, minks, hamsters, non-human primates and, to a lesser extent, dogs are also sensitive. “Right now, however, there are few studies on the susceptibility of different animal species to the new coronavirus and on the dynamics of infection in susceptible animal species,” says Majó.

A cat with a serious heart condition

The animal was admitted to a veterinary hospital. He had severe breathing difficulties, a rectal temperature of 38.2ºC, a very low platelet count, and heart failure. He underwent humanitarian euthanasia. Subsequently, the cat was referred to CReSA, where an autopsy was performed. This research center has the Biocontainment Unit suitable for working with coronaviruses in biosafety level 3 conditions. The autopsy revealed that the cat had so-called feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, usually of genetic origin, and that the causes of acute cardiorespiratory failure were edema and pulmonary congestion and hemorrhage. On the other hand, genetic material (RNA) from SARS-CoV-2 was detected in samples taken from the nose and mesenteric lymph node (which drains the intestine); the viral load, however, was low and none of the lesions presented by the animal were compatible with a virus infection. Therefore, concludes Segalés, “the finding of SARS-CoV-2 in this animal was incidental and was not related to the clinical symptoms for which it was decided to euthanize it.”

How do we protect our animals from coronavirus?

In line with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), researchers recommend people infected with the virus and pets at home to take basic hygiene measures such as washing their hands before and after contact. with animals or manipulating their food or things, as well as avoiding kissing them, letting them lick us or sharing our food with them. If possible, it is best to avoid direct contact.

How do we know if our cat is infected?

Although the symptoms of COVID-19 in animals are unclear and the chance of infection is very low, symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy are clinical signs potentially compatible with SARS-CoV-2 infections. CReSA researchers recommend that, in case of doubt, it is best to consult a veterinarian.