WHO: Cats and Dogs Can’t Get COVID-19

Amid the global coronavirus outbreak, pet owners are wondering if their pets are at risk of contracting and spreading the disease.

A relief to pet owners: there is no tangible evidence that dogs or cats can be infected with the disease as of now, as there are significant barriers for the coronavirus to jump from humans to animals, and vice versa, says the World Health Organization (WHO). 

“At present, there is no evidence that companion animals / pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans”, reads the statement on the WHO website. 

COVID-19 is thought to have originated from dead animal flesh and been passed to humans via a live animal market in Wuhan, China. 

Just a while ago, when the death toll from coronavirus reached its peak in China, local officials of a village in Zhejiang province ordered all residents to quarantine their pets and slaughtered all stray dogs in the streets. Another village in China did the same in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Being knowledgeable about how the virus transmits could help avoid drastic measures due to the abundance of misinformation.

A while ago, the case of a coronavirus patient’s pet dog that was confirmed to be infected with the illness caught global attention. The authorities tested the dog repeatedly and found small traces of the virus in its nose and mouth. The tests showed a “weak positive.” Yet the WHO claimed that cats and dogs cannot pass COVID-19 on to humans, but they can test positive for low levels of the virus if they contract if from their owners. It’s pet owners, rather than pets, that are at risk of spreading the disease.

"We have to differentiate between real infection and just detecting the presence of the virus," says professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, Prof Jonathan Ball.

WHO still advises pet-owners to adopt good hygiene practices and limit physical contact with their pets.

By Elene Dzebisashvili

13 March 2020 12:56