Vets “offer reassurance” after UK cat tests positive for Covid-19

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A UK cat tested positive for Covid-19

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has issued advice for pet owners after it emerged that the virus responsible for Covid-19 had been detected in a pet cat in England, in the first such known case in the UK.

“The infection was confirmed following tests at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) laboratory in Weybridge on Wednesday 22 July,” a Defra statement reads.

“Although this is the first confirmed case of an animal infection with the coronavirus strain in the UK, there is no evidence to suggest that the animal was involved in transmission of the disease to its owners or that pets or other domestic animals are able to transmit the virus to people.

“The advice from Public Health England is for people to wash their hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.

“All available evidence suggests that the cat contracted the coronavirus from its owners who had previously tested positive for COVID-19. The cat and its owners have since made a full recovery and there was no transmission to other animals or people in the household.”

Staff at the veterinary practice where the cat was treated were aware of the household’s Covid-19 status and were not impacted by the virus.

Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said, “This is a very rare event with infected animals detected to date only showing mild clinical signs and recovering within in a few days. There is no evidence to suggest that pets directly transmit the virus to humans.

“We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will update our guidance to pet owners should the situation change.”

BVA President Daniella Dos Santos said, “While pet owners may be worried by this news, we’d like to emphasise that there continues to be no evidence that infected pets can pass Covid-19 to their owners. There have been a tiny number of cases of Covid-19 in domestic animals worldwide and in all cases, it appears likely that the transmission was from infected humans to animals.

“We have been in touch with vets in Government and the local veterinary practice for information and have been informed that the cat only showed mild clinical signs and has since made a full recovery.”

She added, “Our advice to pet owners who have Covid-19 or who are self-isolating with symptoms remains to restrict contact with their pets as a precautionary measure and to practise good hygiene, including regular handwashing.

“We also recommend that owners who are confirmed or suspected to have Covid-19 should keep their cat indoors if possible, but only if the cat is happy to be kept indoors. Some cats cannot stay indoors due to stress-related medical reasons.

“It is also the case that animals may act as fomites, as the virus could be on their fur in the same way it is on other surfaces, such as tables and doorknobs. That’s why good hand hygiene remains important.”

BVA issued the following advice for pet owners confirmed or suspected to have Covid-19:

  • Restrict contact with pets as a precautionary measure.
  • If your pet requires care, wash your hands before and after any interaction with them and wear a face mask if possible.
  • Keep cats indoors if possible, and only if they are happy to be indoors. Try to arrange for someone else to exercise dogs, taking care to restrict any contact with the person walking your dog and making sure they practise good hand hygiene. This is to reduce the likelihood of your pet spreading the disease through environmental contamination on their fur – there is no evidence that pet animals can pass Covid-19 to humans.
  • If your pet shows clinical signs, please do not take it to the vet but call the practice for advice first and alert them to the household’s status.
  • If your pet requires essential treatment, call the practice for further advice. Do not take your pet to the surgery unless the vet instructs you to. You may need to arrange for someone else to transport your pet for treatment.More BVA guidance for pet owners is available on their website. Click here for the latest government guidance on how to continue to care for pet animals during the coronavirus pandemic.

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