‘Cats Are Not Spreaders Of COVID-19’ | Universiti Putra Malaysia
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‘Cats are not spreaders of COVID-19’

SERDANG - Studies to date have found no evidence that cats can be spreaders of the COVID-19, and there is no evidence of transmission of the disease from cats to humans.

These are the findings of the study entitled “SARS-CoV2 infection in Cats and Evaluation of Knowledge, Attitude and Practices towards COVID-19 among Pet Owners”, which was conducted by researchers from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (FPV) Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, UPM, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and representatives of the Disease Control Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia.

A lecturer from the Department of Veterinary Pathology and Microbiology, FPV, UPM, Dr. Farina Mustaffa Kamal, said there should be efforts to conduct viral surveillance on animals as the virus is constantly mutating and evolving.

She said the study was conducted because, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were reports of COVID-19 infection in domestic animals such as cats and dogs, as well as animals in zoos such as tigers and lions. Infection experiments in the laboratory have also been conducted where cats and dogs can become infected when exposed to high doses of the virus.

According to her, the focus of the study was on cats as the project had to be carried out in a short period, and when compared to dogs, cats were also reported to be more susceptible to infection.

“During the first SARS-CoV outbreak in 2007 in Hong Kong and H5N1 Avian Influenza, cats were also infected, but there was no evidence of cat-to-human transmission. I would also wish to emphasise that currently, there is no evidence that cats can be COVID-19 spreaders,” she said.

She said given the close relationship between humans and pets, the extent of SARS-CoV2 infection in pets belonging to COVID-19 patients should be further assessed, including factors of whether the pet owners are symptomatic, animal handling and animal contact while their owners were infected with COVID-19 to find out the association with their COVID-19 status.

Dr. Farina said the study was divided into two parts, with the main objective of the first part being to find out the status of SARS-CoV2 infection in pet cats belonging to COVID-19 patients by conducting surveillance of SARS-CoV2 antigens and antibodies on cats and identifying factors that cause infection from cat owners to their pets.

Samples taken from the cats were nasal, mouth and rectal swabs for RT-PCR testing to determine antigen status and blood samples for ELISA testing to determine antibody levels.

The second part of the study is to determine the knowledge, attitude and practices (KAP) of pet owners, regardless of animal species, to COVID-19 infection in animals.

Dr. Farina said the general public perceptions of the role of pets in SARS-CoV2 transmission need to be assessed to identify gaps in their knowledge and awareness of the infection in pets.

She said it was because there were reports specifically from other countries that the public abandoned their pets for fear that they could be infected with COVID-19 from the animals.

The study began in November 2020 and is expected to end in September this year. The project is a ‘Covid19 supplementary fund’ project, which is a short-term project sponsored by the Malaysia One Health University Network (MyOHUN) in collaboration with the Southeast Asia One Health University Network (SEAOHUN) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). - UPM

Date of Input: 12/08/2021 | Updated: 12/08/2021 | hairul_nizam

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