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Today we talk you through the current findings on the animal origin of coronavirus, as well as the question that many of us with furry friends are asking: can pets carry coronavirus?

Coronavirus animal origin

Evidence suggests COVID-19’s animal origin is the Rhinolophus bat, also known as the Horseshoe bat. 

However, researchers are unsure as to whether there was an intermediate host involved in the transmission of COVID-19 from the bat to the first human carrier of the virus. 

Coronavirus infection typically takes place between a person and an infected animal. For example, the MERS virus spread to humans via dromedaries (a breed of camel) and the SARS virus spread to humans from civet cats. 

COVID-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2, was originally thought to have originated in a city seafood market, where wildlife was sold illegally in Wuhan, China. Later reports published by The Lancet say it is unlikely there was just one originating location or source of the beginning of the outbreak.

Today, it has not yet been confirmed whether the Horseshoe bat is the only coronavirus animal origin, nor has it been determined if the seafood market was the single starting point for the virus. The South Morning Chinese Post reports the first confirmed case of coronavirus dates back to November 17, 2019. It is suggested the first person to have contracted the virus is a 55-year-old man from Hubei, however, further work will need to be done to confirm “patient O” of the coronavirus. 


Can pets carry coronavirus?

While the spotlight may be on us, humans, many of us will also be wondering whether our pets carry coronavirus. 

The majority of coronavirus transmission is happening through human contact but recent findings show our furry friends can both carry the virus and become infected.

The World Organization for Animal Health reports several domestic cats and dogs, and a tiger, have tested positive for coronavirus after coming into close contact with an infected human. The report highlights these cases have been isolated incidents and there is no evidence to suggest pets are a risk for furthering the spread of coronavirus.

Laboratory studies have tested cats, dogs, ferrets, ducks, pigs and chickens to uncover how susceptible these species may be to contracting the virus, and how easily they can transmit the virus to one another.

Cats

A study has shown cats are the most susceptible to becoming infected with coronavirus, due to the fact they can be affected by clinical disease. Studies have also shown cats are capable of transmitting the disease to other cats.

Ferrets

Ferrets, similarly to cats, are susceptible to becoming infected with the virus but are less likely to experience symptoms or fallout from becoming infected.

Dogs

Dogs are susceptible to the virus but are less so than cats and ferrets.

It is important to note there is no reported risk of contracting coronavirus via pets. The Centers for Disease advises pet owners should “not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.” 

As it stands, more research is needed to understand how coronavirus may affect different animals, and how this could, in turn, affect human health.

Read: How long can coronavirus live on surfaces?

Peter Fray

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