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Cat infected with COVID-19 from owner in Belgium

A cat in Belgium (not shown here) has been infected with the novel coronavirus.
A cat in Belgium (not shown here) has been infected with the novel coronavirus.
(Image: © Shutterstock)

A domestic cat in Belgium has been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that's spreading across the globe, the government's FPS Public Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment announced March 27, according to news reports. 

This is the first human-to-cat transmission of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). About a week after its owner got sick with COVID-19, after returning from a trip to Northern Italy, the cat developed coronavirus symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting and respiratory issues, Steven Van Gucht, virologist and federal spokesperson for the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium, told Live Science.

The owner sent samples of vomit and feces to Dr. Daniel Desmecht's lab at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Liège. Genetic tests showed high levels of SARS-CoV-2 in those samples, he said. "The cat recovered after 9 days," Van Gucht said.

Related: 13 Coronavirus myths busted by science

Cats and humans appear to have a similar "doorknob" on the surfaces of respiratory cells that lets the SARS-CoV-2 virus get inside, according to Van Gucht. 

In humans, scientists have figured out that the SARS-CoV-2 virus attaches to a receptor protein called ACE2 that's on the outside of respiratory cells. 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.

During the 2003 SARS outbreak, cats were infected with a coronavirus as well, Van Gucht said. 

The only other pets thought to have "caught" the novel coronavirus from owners were two dogs in Hong Kong. The first dog, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, tested a weak positive for the virus at the end of February, Live Science reported. The dog died in mid-March, though the exact cause of death is not known, as the owner didn't allow an autopsy. A second dog, a German shepherd, tested positive but showed no symptoms of the disease, Bloomberg reported.

During the outbreak of another coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), dogs and cats contracted low levels of that virus, animal health expert Vanessa Barrs from City University told the South China Morning Post.

There have been no reports of pets passing the virus to their human owners, and Van Gucht stressed that even human-to-pet transmission is not a significant path of viral spread. 

"We think the cat is a side victim of the ongoing epidemic in humans and does not play a significant role in the propagation of the virus," he said. 

To prove definitively that the cat was infected with SARS-CoV-2, scientists will need a blood test to look for antibodies specific to this virus, Van Gucht said. Those tests will happen once the cat is no longer under quarantine.

Coronavirus science and news

Originally published on Live Science. 

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  • Catman
    admin said:
    A domestic cat in Belgium was confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that's spreading across the globe.

    Cat infected with COVID-19 from owner in Belgium : Read more

    I think we've finally found a use for cats. We can infect them with the virus then harvest their antibodies-rich blood plasma for transfusion into their human masters.
    Reply
  • Feline-slave
    "Human masters"... You know nothing of the human cat relationship!!! THEY are our masters and we are merely their humble servants. Just ask any cat.
    Reply
  • Bronxboi
    Catman said:
    I think we've finally found a use for cats. We can infect them with the virus then harvest their antibodies-rich blood plasma for transfusion into their human masters.

    We already have a use for them, it is called they are our pets. They are living creatures and should not be seen as a virus incubator.
    Reply
  • meyor
    admin said:
    A domestic cat in Belgium was confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that's spreading across the globe.

    Cat infected with COVID-19 from owner in Belgium : Read more

    They are our pets, they are living creatures so they can contact the Covid-19, because there is no much far d/f between Cat Cell And human Cell, that cat need to be Eliminated with immediate effect, to avoid too much spread to human
    Reply
  • Thierry
    It is a joke ? Can a virologist explain me how a beta coronavirus can contamine a cat or a dog ? have you crosscheck your source ? You are the third webite (+ in FR and BE) to report this RUMOR (I think it is one more).
    Reply
  • jeannemcghee
    Catman said:
    I think we've finally found a use for cats. We can infect them with the virus then harvest their antibodies-rich blood plasma for transfusion into their human masters.
    idiotic, since its a CAT! has to be human, id think. Killing cats is out!
    Reply
  • jeannemcghee
    Cat got it from OWNER, Keep that CLEAR! & cant be usued as a science experiment, since its an animal you can do a fusion, as we aren't biologically compatible! Don't kill cats,. Kill the actual human infected virus...
    Reply
  • this headline is false!
    From the article: "To prove definitively that the cat was infected with SARS-CoV-2, scientists will need a blood test to look for antibodies specific to this virus, Van Gucht said. Those tests will happen once the cat is no longer under quarantine."
    SO! They don't know if the cat got the virus from a human! Yet, more pets will be abandoned or killed because of the fear this article will generate!
    I call that irresponsible reporting, especially the clickbait headline! Ugh! Makes me furious! 🤬
    Reply
  • RubyLee
    Catman said:
    I think we've finally found a use for cats. We can infect them with the virus then harvest their antibodies-rich blood plasma for transfusion into their human masters.
    My cat calls dibs on your antibodies. Personally I'm voting to harvest antibodies from Spring Break participants from Florida.
    Reply
  • Catman
    RubyLee said:
    My cat calls dibs on your antibodies. Personally I'm voting to harvest antibodies from Spring Break participants from Florida.
    Yeah, when I talked about harvesting a cat's antibodies, I was clearly joking. I'm fairly certain a cat's antibodies would attack human cells. My real intention is to bleed all those spring-breakers of their antibodies, and make sure it hurts when doing it!
    Reply