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COVID-19 Experimental Infection in Cats

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Tabitha111 View Drop Down
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    Posted: May 14 2020 at 7:12am

By Scott Weese on May 13, 2020

Cats are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. That’s been shown experimentally and in limited natural infections.

 However, there’s still a lot we need to know to better understand the feline and human health implications. While limitations of experimental studies always have to be considered (since they’re an artificial situation), they can answer some questions a lot quicker than field studies.

A new paper (Halfmann et al, New Engl J Med) provides a bit more information about this virus in cats, largely supporting what’s been reported before .
 I found it pretty surprising to see the paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, since it just involves cats.  I also found it surprising how superficial the information is. I guess they were trying to squeeze everything into a Letter, but they sacrificed providing good information for publication in a high profile journal. More details are in the Supplementary Data file, though, but still with lots of gaps.

Anyway, the study involved infection of three cats.

The day after cats were infected, another cat was cohoused with them.

(No mention about  what they did to make sure there was no viable virus on the haircoat remaining after experimental inoculation, if anything).

Nasal and rectal swabs were collected daily to look for the virus.

By day 3, virus was recovered from all inoculated cats.

No mention if that was nasal, rectal or both.

It appears that the infected cats were healthy, although how they were monitored isn’t clear beyond saying they didn’t lose weight or have abnormal body temperatures…but their graph shows 2/3 infected cats had a 1 degree C temperature jump by 24h post infection, and one of the co-housed cats seemed to have  spiked a fever on day 7.

Virus was detectable for a few days.

Virus was ultimately detected in all three cats housed with the inoculated cats.

Co-housed cats that got infected shed the virus for 4-5 days.

All cats developed antibodies, further confirming they were infected.

My take home messages from this study aren’t really anything we didn’t know before but it’s still useful information.

Cats can be infected.

Infected cats don’t necessarily get sick.

Cats can spread it to other cats.

If cats can spread it to other cats, the logical question is whether they can spread it to people. It’s logical to assume that they can, and take some basic precautions around exposed cats (like we’ve been saying for months). So, nothing new and scary, just a reminder to keep using some common sense preventive measures.

As the authors state,  in earlier reports, “coupled with our data showing the ease of transmission between domestic cats, [show] there is a public health need to recognize and further investigate the potential chain of human–cat–human transmission. “

Well said.

'When you feel as though you can't do something, the simple antidote is action: Begin doing it. Start the process, even if it's just a simple step, and don't stop at the beginning.'
Marcus B
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