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Owners ‘infect pet cat’ with Covid-19

A PET cat has fallen ill with coronavirus in the UK after apparently catching Covid-19 from its owners.

The infection was confirmed following tests at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha) laboratory in Weybridge, Surrey, on July 22.

Downing Street said the pet had shown symptoms of a respiratory infection ‘with a nasal discharge and some shortness of breath’.

The cat and its owners have all made a full recovery.

Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England (PHE), said: ‘This is the first case of a domestic cat testing positive for Covid-19 in the UK but should not be a cause for alarm.

‘The investigation into this case suggests that the infection was spread from humans to animal, and not the other way round.

‘At this time, there is no evidence that pets can transmit the disease to humans.

‘In line with the general advice on fighting coronavirus, you should wash your hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.’

A private vet initially diagnosed the pet with feline herpes virus, a common cat respiratory infection, but the sample was also tested for Covid-19 part of a research programme.

The case has been reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health in line with international agreements.

There have been a small number of confirmed cases in pets in other countries in Europe, North America and Asia.

The UK’s chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, said: ‘Tests conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Agency have confirmed that the virus responsible for Covid-19 has been detected in a pet cat in England.

‘This is a very rare event, with infected animals detected to date only showing mild clinical signs and recovering within a few days.

‘There is no evidence to suggest that pets directly transmit the virus to humans.

‘We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will update our guidance to pet owners should the situation change.’

A team of scientists at the University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research are behind the programme to screen hundreds of samples for Covid-19 infections in the UK cat population.

Researchers at the CVR have now completed a full genome sequencing of the virus found in the infected cat.

Professor Margaret Hosie, who works on the project, said: ‘There have been sporadic reports of cats from Covid-19 households in Hong Kong, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and the US that tested positive for (coronavirus) and were presumed to be infected from their owners, but this is the first report of an infected cat in the UK.

‘All available evidence suggests that the cat was infected from its owners, who had previously tested positive.

‘The cat and its owners have since made a full recovery and there was no transmission of the virus to other animals or people in the household.’

Professor William Weir of the University of Glasgow’s School of Veterinary Medicine, said: ‘The factors that govern why one species is susceptible to the Covid-19 virus while others are more resistant are currently unknown, but will likely reveal more about how this virus spreads and causes disease.

‘At present, there is no evidence that cats, dogs or other domestic animals play any role in the epidemiology of human infections with (Covid-19).’

He said cats and dogs with reported infections usually recover and there has been no evidence of transmission occurring between cats or dogs.

It comes as:

■ The government said 45,759 people had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm yesterday, up by seven from the day before. This is the lowest number reported since March 12 but reporting is often lower on weekends.

■ New figures from police forces in England and Wales show just one person has been fined for breaching quarantine rules after arriving from abroad;

■ Young men from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds were almost twice as likely to be handed fines for breaches of Covid-19 lockdown rules than white men the same age, new figures show;

■ Downing Street has warned ‘no travel is risk-free’ after a coronavirus quarantine requirement for people arriving in the UK from Spain was reintroduced;

■ The number of cases of coronavirus around the world has doubled in the last six weeks alone, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.