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First cats in Texas test positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus in Brazos County

Texas A&M researchers confirmed two cats in Brazos County tested positive for the virus
Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 11:03 PM CDT
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TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY, Texas (KBTX) - A team of researchers at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science has confirmed the first cats in Brazos County have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. They also believe these would be the first two cats that have tested positive for the virus in Texas.

Dr. Sarah A. Hamer, a researcher on the project, told KBTX the two cats that tested positive were living in separate households.

“In both cases, these cats were asymptomatic,” said Dr. Hamer. “I can say that after we sampled, the owner let us know that one of the cats was sneezing for a few days after we left the house.”

The Covid-19 & Pets research project started in June. The veterinary researchers started working with the Brazos County Health Department to start conducting a study on cats and dogs that live in homes with confirmed human COVID-19 cases to learn more about animal exposure and transmission pathways.

She said now that they know there’s a chance for pets to become infected in COVID-positive homes, pet owners should be cautious if they become infected, but that they should not worry.

“Under no circumstances would an owner of an infected pet be asked to surrender their pets, and there’s no need to worry about a diagnosis. But when we do find out that a pet is positive, we would work with those owners to take preventative measures to make sure that that pet is staying home, it’s not interacting with other pets and is isolating in the same way that positive people would isolate,” said Dr. Hamer.

Dr. Hamer told KBTX, at this point in their study, they have found that it is not very common for pets to become infected.

“Since late June, we’ve sampled over 50 houses and each house might have one or more pets. So it certainly isn’t common to find an infection in the pets, but we’re certainly trying to figure out under what circumstances pets are becoming infected,” said Dr. Hamer.

Since this study is relatively new, Dr. Hamer said there is still a lot to learn.

“Our study is very much still moving forward. We’re actively enrolling new pets every day, making site visits, so nearly every day of the week. There’s a lot more that we can learn. For example, how long do infected pets stay infected? Do they recover? How commonly do infected pets have clinical signs? These are all things that will take larger sample sizes and more studying to be able to learn more about,” she said.

Dr. Hamer said there is no evidence of transmission from an infected pet to a person.

“There’s no indication right now that humans can get the virus from their infected pet. Our study certainly wasn’t designed to be able to detect that. We weren’t looking at the directionality; can the pets give it to the humans? Can the humans give it to the pets? But one important thing to emphasize is that we were sampling exclusively houses where at least one person has been diagnosed as positive,” said Dr. Hamer.

She explained to us how animals get involved in the study through the Brazos County Health Department.

“When newly diagnosed cases get a call from the case investigator, they’re asked a series of questions and one of them is, ‘Do you own pets?’ and that’s the point where if the answer is ‘yes,’ then they are given just a small bit of information about our research study and they can choose to opt-in at that point. Then our research team can follow up and find more details about what it actually looks like; what the site visit will involve, what we want to get from each pet, and they can choose whether they want to be involved or not,” said Dr. Hamer.

Dr. Hamer said after a pet tests positive, they would revisit the home a few times to continue collecting data.

“We’ve lined up resamplings for we get to go back to the household to sample that animal again and we hope to do so again in a couple of weeks after that. So we’re hoping to get some data to learn about the longevity of the infection and wind antibodies become detectable,” said Dr. Hamer.

She said they have revisited the two cats that have tested positive and that they are both doing great.

If you or someone in your household have tested positive for COVID-19 and own a dog or a cat, you could enter your pet into the study by clicking here.

For the future of the study, Dr. Hamer said they’re going to focus on sampling cats and dogs, but that they plan on branching out soon.

“Any mammal that’s in a domestic environment. Speaking nationally and globally, both dogs and cats have been shown to be infected or to have been exposed to the virus, and our study, so far, we’ve confirmed infection in these two cats.”

For more information on the study, click here.

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