Can coronavirus be transmitted between humans and animals?

It is the worst case scenario - the transmission of coronavirus between humans and domestic pets - and it appears that this may be happening already. in Hong Kong, a dog that had tested as "weak positive", leading the Hong Kong government to recommend that pets of coronavirus patients should be quarantined, has died.

Identified by the South China Morning Post as a 17-year-old Pomeranian, the animal died on Monday, Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department confirmed in an email. The dog's owner has also tested positive.

This is not the only such case, as there have been reports of cats passing on, or even being infected with the virus.

...because animals and people can sometimes share diseases ... it is still recommended that people who are sick with Covid-19 limit contact with companion and other animals until more information is known about the virus.

World Organisation for Animal Health

The first Briton to contract coronavirus, Connor Reed, a 25-year-old expat from Llandudno in North Wales,who worked as a teacher in a school in Wuhan kept a diary of his illness. He wrote: "Even the kitten hanging around my apartment seems to be feeling under the weather. It isn’t its usual lively self, and when I put down food it doesn’t want to eat. I don’t blame it – I’ve lost my appetite too". Two days later he wrote "Suddenly, I’m feeling better, physically at least. The flu has lifted. But the poor kitten has died". Mr. Connor has made a full recovery.

Feline coronavirus is a global phenomena, and, like COVID-19, is a member of the Coronaviridae family of viruses, and also like the virus currently killing thousands across the planet it is highly transmissible. Survivors can develop immunity for a short period, and then go on to reinfect.

Canine coronavirus displays similar characteristics to feline strains: a type of canine coronavirus known as Group II has been shown to cause respiratory disease in dogs, and is similar to strain OC43, which affects both dogs and humans. This was first identified in the UK in 2003, and is now widespread across Europe.

A passive carrier is a living creature that can help spread disease from one animal to another, without ever becoming infected themselves. To demonstrate the concept of passive carriers, pretend you were infected with the COVID-19 virus and you decided to snuggle your outdoor cat before letting it outside to roam the neighbourhood. Your cat, for a short amount of time, could pass virus particles to any human who subsequently pets them.

Zac Pilossoph, consulting veterinarian.

Whilst it remains uncertain as to whether the virus is indeed infecting pets and being transmitted in the same way it is between humans, as Dr. Pilossoph warns, it does appear that pets are able to carry the virus between humans in much the same as it can remain on surfaces such as door handles, etc, after being touched by an infected person.

It remains, however, a fact that coronaviruses affecting humans are mutations of animal viruses that have made the jump to humans.

Dr Helena Maier, from Britain's Pirbright Institute, part of the UK government's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said: "Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals.

"Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses).

"Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known."

Image: Wikipedia.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and published author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

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