Cat diagnosed with COVID-19 in Belgium; raises questions on transmission between animals and humans

A new case of human-to-animal transmission of coronavirus has arisen in Belgium, where health experts say a cat contracted the disease from its infected owner

Health officials have said that there is no evidence to support that pets can transmit COVID-19 to humans. However, it seems like our four-legged friends can contract the deadly virus from humans after a cat in Belgium was diagnosed with the disease a week after its owner fell ill.

Coronavirus-stricken owner infects cat

A pet cat has been infected with the novel coronavirus in Belgium after being infected by its owner, Belgian health authorities revealed on Friday, according to The Brussels Times. The feline tested positive for COVID-19 in Liège after showing classic symptoms of the virus, including breathing difficulties, a week after its owner fell sick, health officials said in a press conference.

"The cat had diarrhoea, kept vomiting and had breathing difficulties. The researchers found the virus in the cat's faeces," professor Steven Van Gucht said, according to the publication.

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This isn't the first time a pet has been infected by a human. There have been similar cases reported in Hong Kong earlier this month where two dogs tested positive for COVID-19, including one that died, after coming in close contact with people carrying the virus, as previously reported.

Is animal-to-human transmission possible?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has ruled out the possibility of pets infecting humans with coronavirus but the above-mentioned cases are proof that that transmission of the disease from humans to animals is still possible.

Van Gucht also pointed out that although in the cat's case, the owner infected the pet, the likeliness of a cat or a dog transmitting the disease to its owner is very low. "We want to stress that this is an isolated case," he said. "The risk of animal-to-human transmission is very small."

Puppy and boy
Puppy and boy Pixabay

Belgium's National Council for Animal Protection (CNPA) also told The Brussels Times that people should not worry about getting infected by their furry friends. "Animals are not vectors of the epidemic, so there is no reason to abandon your animal," the agency said, before advising owners to "not rub their nose against their pets."

As a precautionary measure, it is strongly recommended to follow the same standard rules of hygiene when interacting with your pets. These include avoiding close contact with them, washing your hands after touching or playing with them and preventing them from licking your face.

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