PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Researchers across the country are looking at COVID-19 in animals, and an Arizona study just confirmed the first human-to-animal transmission. Translational Genomics Research Institute, which is based in Phoenix, said it used genome sequencing to confirm that a Phoenix man and his pets – a dog and a cat – had identical strains of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
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“This case study was the first example we had from the project that demonstrated the likelihood of virus transmission from a pet owner to animals in the household,” said Hayley Yaglom, the lead author of the study appearing in the journal One Health.
Researchers believe the virus spread from pet parent to pets. There are two main reasons – one having to do with the pets and the other with their owner. “The animals were confined to an apartment and therefore had little-to-no opportunity to be exposed to the virus, and so it was highly unlikely that the pets infected their owner,” a TGen news release explained. Second, the pet parent got sick before the animals did. “Worldwide, there is no documented case of COVID transmission from a pet to its pet parent,” TGen says.
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It’s not clear if the human virus spread to both the dog and the cat or if one of the animals infected the other. “This particular dog and cat were buddies who had close contact with each other,” TGen’s researchers said.
In this instance, the pet parent had not been vaccinated, had entertained people who were not vaccinated, and did not limit contact with his dog and cat. TGen said he recovered, and the animals were asymptomatic.
Knowing that you can spread COVID-19 to your fur-kids, TGen suggests taking some basic precautions if you get a positive test or have developed symptoms. Those precautions include getting vaccinated and wearing a mask around your pets if you get sick. “As difficult as it might be for many pet owners, they should avoid cuddling, kissing, allowing pets to lick their faces, or sleeping with them,” TGen said. You do not have to isolate yourself from your animals but try to keep contact to a minimum while you’re experiencing symptoms.
TGen’s study, which tested 39 dogs and 22 cats in two dozen homes, is part of an ongoing effort to track coronavirus variants by sequencing as many positive samples as possible. According to TGen, 14 pets in six homes tested positive for COVID-19.
TGen will continue its research through the end of the year and possibly into 2022 if it gets funding. Researchers are looking for more test subjects, specifically pet owners who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks. If you’d like to participate, you can email [email protected]tgen.org