You can indeed get corona from your cat

For the first time, researchers have been able to show that a cat has infected a human being. Although that is probably not a major infection route.

It has been repeatedly established that people can pass the coronavirus on to their cats. As early as March 2020, researchers from the University of Liège described the very first case.

But the reverse, that a cat infects a human, had never been shown before. Until now.

Thaise researchers investigated the special case of a 64-year-old man and his 32-year-old son. They tested positive in August last year in the capital Bangkok. With no hospital beds available, they traveled 900 kilometers in an ambulance, along with their cat. The cat had slept in the same bed as the patients.

Upon arrival, the cat was examined by three veterinarians. The cat got a nose wipe and sneezed in the face of one of the vets. Moments later, the vet developed a fever, a runny nose and a cough. She turned out to be infected with corona.

The cat also had a lot of virus in its nose, as it turned out later. Once it was known that the cat was positive, she was allowed to join her owners in the hospital. Together with one of the patients, the cat was allowed to leave the hospital again.

Graspop appears to be a source of corona infections

All human contacts of the veterinarian were tested via contact tracing. Only one of them also had corona, but it was not even the same virus variant. In addition, the variant that the vet contracted was not circulating in the Thai province where she lived and worked.

The genetic analysis revealed that the vet was infected with the same virus strain as the two men and the cat. Since the vet has never met the two men, the conclusion is: it must have been the cat.

Virologist Steven Van Gucht (Sciensano) is not surprised. ‘It is the first time that it has been demonstrated, but for me it is obvious. If you can find the virus in the nose, it is probably also possible that the animal can pass on the virus.’

That an animal can infect a person with the corona virus, no one should bring any of its milk. If that were not possible, we would not have known a pandemic in recent years.

Minks, hamsters, deer

Out earlier analyses It turns out that many mammals can contract the virus, since they have the receptors that the virus targets. But the list of animals for which animal-to-human transmission has already been documented is short for the time being. mink passed on the virus in the Netherlands, hamsters in Hong Kong and deer in Canada. A Thai cat has now been added to that list.

Cats appear to be more sensitive to corona infection than other pets. Dogs can also become infected, but the virus multiplies slowly in dogs. An experiment shows that cats can also infect other cats.

Although it now appears that cats can infect humans, it is probably not a major transmission route, the study authors say. Cats shed the virus for less time. ‘In the whole of the epidemic it is a fact diverse. The spread between people is still the most important route,’ says Van Gucht.

But virus spread from animals to humans is potentially dangerous. If viruses circulate in animals, they can mutate there into a new variant. By jumping to humans, a potentially dangerous new variant can be introduced to humans. For that reason minks were slaughtered en masse in the Netherlands and Denmark. ‘That is less important with cats, because they are fairly solitary animals. But it does circulate smoothly among deer in North America. An animal reservoir has been created there,’ says Van Gucht.

The researchers draw two lessons from their case study. The first lesson is that veterinarians should also wear a face shield when examining animals that may have corona. The vet wore an FFP2 face mask and gloves. She may have been infected through the eye fluid.

A second lesson is that people who (possibly) have corona should keep their distance from their cat. Kissing your pet or letting it lick your face is definitely not a good idea. Don’t let the animal sleep with you either,’ says Van Gucht.

People should take extra precautions if they suspect an infection in their cats, said one of the authors Nature† “They shouldn’t abandon their cat, but treat them with more care.”

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