Why you shouldn’t worry that a cat tested positive for COVID-19

Belgian feline’s owner had traveled to Italy; experts say it’s an isolated case

A domestic cat in Belgium has been infected with COVID-19

A domestic cat in Belgium has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the government's FPS Public Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment announced March 27.

"Recently, the veterinary medicine faculty in Liège reported that a coronavirus infection has been determined in a cat," virologist Steven Van Gucht said at a Federal Public Service Health press conference on Friday, the Brussels Times reported. "The cat lived with her owner, who started showing symptoms of the virus a week before the cat did."

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“We want to stress that this is an isolated case,” Van Gucht said. “Additionally, in this case, we are talking about a human-to-animal transmission, not the other way around. There are no indications that this is common. The risk of animal-to-human transmission is very small.”

"The cat recovered after nine days," Van Gucht said.

Scientists have figured out the SARS-CoV-2 virus attaches to a receptor protein called ACE2 that's on the outside of respiratory cells, Live Science reported. Once inside of these cells, "the virus hijacks certain machinery so it can replicate."

"The feline ACE2 protein resembles the human ACE2 homologue, which is most likely the cellular receptor which is being used by Sars-CoV-2 for cell entry," Van Gucht said.

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Jane Sykes, chief veterinary medical officer at the University of California, Davis, told HuffPost that cats and dogs might be "dead-end" hosts for the virus, meaning they could become infected but are not likely to transmit it to humans or other animals.

“You’re more likely to get infected from another person,” Sykes told HuffPost.

Last month, a dog in Hong Kong tested “weakly positive” for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

"The dog has a low-level of infection and it is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission," Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department wrote in a fact sheet.

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Veterinarians and WHO said the virus might have been in the dog’s nose, but that doesn’t mean the dog had the coronavirus. The dog belonged to a coronavirus patient.

There have been no cases in the United States of animals contracting the illness.

"While this virus seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person-to-person in China," the CDC said last month. "There is no reason to think that any animals including pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus. … However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it's always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals."

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