Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause cold-like illnesses in people, while others cause illness in certain types of animals, such as cattle, camels, and bats. Some coronaviruses, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, infect only animals and do not infect humans.
Risk of animals spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to people
Some coronaviruses that infect animals can be spread to humans and then spread between people, but this is rare. This is what happened with the virus that caused the current outbreak of COVID-19, with the virus likely originating in bats. The first reported infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person.
The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking. Recent studies show that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. More studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
Animals that can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19
We know that cats, dogs, and a few other types of animals can be infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but we don’t yet know all of the animals that can get infected. There have been reports of animals being infected with the virus worldwide.
- A small number of pet cats and dogs have been reported to be infected with the virus in several countries, including the United States. Most of these pets became sick after contact with people with COVID-19.
- Several lions and tigersexternal icon at a New York zoo tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after showing signs of respiratory illness. Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was infected with SARS-CoV-2. All of these large cats have fully recovered.
- SARS-CoV-2 was recently discovered in mink (which are closely related to ferrets) on multiple farms in the Netherlands. The mink showed respiratory and gastrointestinal signs; the farms also experienced an increase in mink deaths. Because some workers on these farms had symptoms of COVID-19, it is likely that infected farm workers were the source of the mink infections. Some farm cats on several mink farms also developed antibodies to this virus, suggesting they had been exposed to the virus at some point. Officials in the Netherlands are investigating the connections between the health of people and animals as well as the environment on these mink farms.
CDC, USDA, and state public health and animal health officials are working in some states to conduct active surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in pets, including cats, dogs, and other small mammals, that had contact with a person with COVID-19. These animals are being tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection and also tested to see whether the pet develops antibodies to this virus. This work is being done to help us better understand how common SARS-CoV-2 infection might be in pets as well as the possible role of pets in the spread of this virus.
For information on how to protect pets from possible infection with SARS-CoV-2.
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