A domestic shorthair cat from Ingham County has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, making it Michigan's first case of a pet that has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
The cat had close contact with its owners, who were confirmed to have COVID-19 about a week before the feline became ill, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said in a release Tuesday. The cat was tested after it began to sneeze and has recovered.
“Given the other reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 being found in pets throughout the world, this detection is not unexpected,” State Veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland said. “The cases in animals generally have involved direct contact with an owner or caretaker who was ill or tested positive for COVID-19.”
State officials said as of Monday, there have been 257 confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in animals throughout the U.S., including 99 cats, since the start of the pandemic more than 19 months ago.
They said there is no evidence to suggest animals are playing a significant role in the transmission of the virus to humans and that that possibility is very low.
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“COVID-19 mainly spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive for the state. “Protecting pets begins by taking precautions to protect yourself by getting one of the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.”
Officials recommend people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to protect their pets by avoiding direct contact with them. That includes kissing and snuggling with them, having them sleep in an ill person's bed and sharing food from an ill person.
They also recommend another person in the household who is not ill take care of the pet. If someone with COVID-19 needs to care for a pet, they are encouraged to wear a mask and wash their hands well before and after interacting with the animals.
Signs of the virus in animals can include fever, sneezing, coughing, nasal or eye discharge, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Testing is recommended in some circumstances, including for animals with recent exposure to a person who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. A veterinarian will need to obtain approval to test the animals for the virus from the state agriculture department.
In August, the Detroit Zoo began vaccinating animals believed to be most susceptible to COVID-19 with a special vaccine developed exclusively for animals by a veterinary pharmaceutical company, whose research and development team was headquartered in Kalamazoo.
Gorillas, chimpanzees, tigers and lions were the first to receive doses, the zoo said in a release. They routinely get other vaccinations.
At that time, the zoo said several lions, tigers, leopards and gorillas had contracted coronavirus in other zoos in the U.S. They said a tiger and a lion in European and Indian zoos had died from the virus, but no COVID-19 infections had been found in animals at the Detroit Zoo.
The zoo said its staff takes safety measures when caring for its animals, including full personal protective equipment and public barriers to ensure social distancing.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan cat becomes first pet in state to test positive for COVID-19