One of the many headlines related to covid-19 that has caused a stir these days is that of a tigress from the New York Zoo who tested positive. The first wild animal in the world to be diagnosed with the virus that had previously been detected in a few domestic animals: a cat in Belgium and two dogs in Hong Kong, all presumably infected by their owners.
Six other felines at the zoo with symptoms (dry cough and poor appetite) are suspected to have been infected by their caretaker who was an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, the chief veterinarian at the Bronx Zoo reported Sunday. They did not test everyone because it is quite complicated (you have to sedate them) and they did not consider it necessary.
Does this mean that our pets are at risk? Should we worry about being infected? The news has alarmed more than one, but you have to see it in perspective, experts explain.
There have been millions of cases of covid-19 worldwide. So far, pet cases are counted on the fingers of one hand. Should they be dismissed? Of course not; but also not rush to draw conclusions. It is necessary to study the matter much more.
The case highlights the fact that much remains to be understood about how the virus affects animals and how it spreads between species.
While the virus responsible for covid-19 is believed to have originated from wild animals in China and hence developed the ability to be transmitted to humans, that does not mean that there is necessarily a risk that a pet could infect its owner or vice versa. Many factors and variables come into play.
“There are no reasons to hurt wild animals or abandon your pet out of fear,” The Ohio State University School of Veterinary emphasizes on its website.
“There is no evidence anywhere, beyond the jump to humans, that an animal has infected anyone anywhere, so you have to see things in perspective,” says Paul Calle, a veterinarian at the Bronx Zoo, at New York Times.
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