A pet cat has been infected with the novel coronavirus in Belgium after being contaminated by its owner, Belgian health authorities said Friday. Cases of contamination of pets are rare and authorities ruled out any risk of contamination to humans from home animals.
The reports follows similar cases in Hong Kong where two dogs tested positive for COVID-19 during a screening campaign carried out on 17 dogs and eight cats living in contact with people carrying the virus.
In Belgium, the discovery was made by researchers at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Liege.
This is "an isolated case" which can occur after "close contact between animals and infected humans", said Doctor Emmanuel Andre, a government agency spokesman on the pandemic.
The virus can be transmitted from humans to animals but "there is no reason to think that animals can be vectors of the epidemic in our society", he said.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
In Hong Kong, "the dogs showed no symptoms", while in Belgium "the cat was suffering from transitory respiratory and digestive problems", said the Belgian food safety agency AFSCA in a statement.
"So far, there is no evidence that a domestic animal can transmit the virus to humans or other pets", the public authority said.
As a precautionary measure, it is "strongly recommended" to apply standard rules of hygiene when dealing with pets: "avoid close contact with pets... wash your hands after handling any animal, do not let the animal lick your face."