Coronavirus: Third wave 'inevitable' claims epidemiologist
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Virologist Dr Eric Leroy, who specialises in zoonotic disease, based his research on the animals admitted to Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre, Buckinghamshire. Here are the details. Between December 2020 to February 2021, there was a sharp increase in the number of cats and dogs in veterinary care for myocarditis. Myocarditis is the term given to describe inflammation of the heart muscle.
At the same time, this surge of cases appeared to mimic the curve and timelines of the B117 variant in the UK.
The pets with myocarditis had no previous history of heart disease, and had the following symptoms:
- Lack of appetite
- Shortness of breath
All affected animals made “remarkable improvements” with rest, oxygen therapy, and oral medications.
Most notably, the concerned pet owners who had taken their companions to the vet had developed Covid respiratory symptoms and tested positive for the virus up to six weeks beforehand.
It was this “coincidence” and “the intriguing simultaneous evolution of myocarditis in these pets and the B117 Covid outbreak in UK” that the research team decided to investigate further.
Serum samples, nose swabs, and rectal swabs were taken from six cats and one dog between January 22 to February 10.
During the same period, blood samples were collected from two cats and two dogs during myocarditis recovery.
All animals involved in the research were between one to 12 years of age.
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Six out of 11 pets admitted to the Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre tested positive for coronavirus.
“To our knowledge, this is the first report of infection of both cats and dogs by the British B117 variant of SARS-CoV-2 [coronavirus],” the researchers said.
Due to the enhanced infectivity and transmissibility of B117, this study “highlights more than ever the risk that companion animals may play” in the Covid outbreak.
The researchers added that further studies are “urgently required” to investigate “pet-to-pet transmission”, as well as “pet-to-human transmission”.
The preprint paper – published on March 18 – is yet to be peer reviewed by other scientists.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) said: “There is limited evidence that some animals, including pets, can contract coronavirus.”
Current evidence, suggested by the BVA, demonstrates that coronavirus:
- May pass from infected humans to certain pets such as cats and ferrets following close contact
- Does not easily pass between cats or most other pets, but this cannot be ruled out
- May pass between ferrets and humans based on the evidence from mink infections
At present, “the current pandemic is being sustained through human-to-human transmission”.
The BVA emphasised that “there is no evidence that animals are playing a significant role in the spread of COVID-19”.
However, “animals may act as fomites”, said the BVA, meaning the virus could be on their fur, the same way it remains on surfaces, such as doorknobs.
By touching an infected surface, such as fur or doorknobs, and then touching your eyes, it could lead to a coronavirus infection.
It’s for this reason that the BVA encourage people to wash their hands before and after any contact with their pet, its food and bedding.
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