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 Weekly Zoonotic Updates

Zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases that have jumped from an animal (non-human) to humans. Each week, this page is updated with the latest zoonotic news and articles from around the world, including COVID-19. Please send all comments or suggestions to one-health@ufl.edu.


Pat Fricano is a One Health Collaborator that organizes and compiles a weekly list of zoonotic disease updates. He has in excess of 30 combined years of work experience in environmental protection and environmental public health between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Health. In his current capacity as the Zoonotic Diseases Coordinator at the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, he tracks mosquito borne and other vector borne diseases.


 

Zoonotic Articles – Week of 1/10/2022

 

Massive New Bird Flu Outbreak Could be 2022’s Deadly Pandemic – 12/27/2021

Israel’s National Security Council has assumed control of a massive bird flu outbreak in the Galilee, which scientists warn could become a “mass disaster” for humans. Over half a billion migrating birds pass through the area every year, heading for warm African winters or balmy European summers, making this a catastrophic location for a major bird flu outbreak—right at the nexus of global avian travel. The virus can be deadly if it infects people. The World Health Organization says more than half of the confirmed 863 human cases it has tracked since 2003 proved fatal. Most strains or variants of avian flu, H5N1, are relatively difficult to transmit to people.

Yossi Leshem, one of Israel’s most renowned ornithologists, told The Daily Beast, however, that it is the ability of these viruses to mutate into new strains that poses such a threat, as we have seen with the coronavirus. “There could be a mutation that also infects people and turns into a mass disaster,” said Leshem, a zoologist at Tel Aviv University and director of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration at Latrun. So far, at least 5,400 wild cranes have died infected with the new H5N1 avian flu, which Israeli authorities fear could expand into a global emergency.

Of the 30,000 Eurasian cranes passing this winter at the Hula Nature Reserve, 17 percent are dead, and scientists fear the worst for their surviving brethren, at least 10,000 of which appear to be ailing. The infection of the cranes is the same strain of avian flu which infected chicken coops throughout northern Israel, and led to the cull in recent days of nearly 1 million birds. Israelis will be without their beloved chicken schnitzel—and without eggs—until a supply chain of imported birds is established.  

The deaths of thousands of wild birds in the Hula Nature Reserve, one of the world’s premier bird sanctuaries, “is an extraordinary event with global ramifications,” warned Tel Aviv University Professor of Zoology Noga Kronfeld Shor in an interview with Reshet Bet Radio. Shor, who is also the chief scientist at Israel’s Ministry of the Environment, noted that the carcasses of other waterbirds, such as pelicans and egrets, have already been found.

Israelis have been warned not to approach any wild bird that looks sick, and not to touch any bird droppings. Yoav Motro, a specialist in vertebrates and locusts at Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture, said that for now, H5N1 is presenting “like the opposite of COVID. Compared to COVID, the chances of [humans] catching this are very, very slight—but unlike COVID, the risks of dying from it if you do catch it are very high.” “It is a tragic ecological event,” he said. “And we simply do not know how it will end, or where it will lead.” “There is no way to know what is going to happen,” Motro said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “When you identify avian flu in chicken coops you kill all the chickens and disinfect the coops. In the wild, at this level of infection, I don't know where it will lead. I’m worried.”

Shalom Bar Tal, an experienced wildlife photographer, told The Daily Beast that he was one of the only people allowed nocturnal access to observe the dead and dying birds. “It could turn into an ecological disaster no less significant than the corona epidemic,” he said. For now, no Israeli is known to be infected with H5N1, but Israelis who were exposed to wild birds are taking the antiviral Tamiflu.

Both Motro and Bar Tal noted the heartrending scenes of weak, infected cranes leaning over their dead. Cranes mate for life and live-in strong family units, Motro said. “That means that when one dies, the rest of the family—I don’t know how to define it—but it mourns.” The cranes’ close physical proximity to one another and tight-knit family structure almost ensures, he said, that when one crane dies, “a close family member will be the next to die.” “There is no treatment,” he said, “no way to help.” We can only hope it doesn’t mutate and jump species.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/israel-bird-flu-outbreak-could-be-2022s-deadly-global-pandemic

 

MRSA Predates Clinical Use of Antibiotics – 1/5/2022

Staphylococcus aureus first developed resistance to the antibiotic methicillin around 200 years ago, according to a large international collaboration including the University of Cambridge, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Denmark’s Serum Statens Institut and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which has traced the genetic history of the bacteria. They were investigating the surprising discovery – from hedgehog surveys from Denmark and Sweden – that up to 60% of hedgehogs carry a type of MRSA called mecC-MRSA. The new study also found high levels of MRSA in swabs taken from hedgehogs across their range in Europe and New Zealand. The researchers believe that antibiotic resistance evolved in Staphylococcus aureus as an adaptation to having to exist side-by-side on the skin of hedgehogs with the fungus Trichophyton erinacei, which produces its own antibiotics. The resulting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is better known as the superbug MRSA. The discovery of this centuries-old antibiotic resistance predates antibiotic use in medical and agricultural settings.

“Using sequencing technology we have traced the genes that give mecC-MRSA its antibiotic resistance all the way back to their first appearance, and found they were around in the nineteenth century,” said Dr Ewan Harrison, a researcher at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and University of Cambridge and a senior author of the study. He added: “Our study suggests that it wasn’t the use of penicillin that drove the initial emergence of MRSA, it was a natural biological process. We think MRSA evolved in a battle for survival on the skin of hedgehogs, and subsequently spread to livestock and humans through direct contact.”

Antibiotic resistance in bugs causing human infections was previously thought to be a modern phenomenon, driven by the clinical use of antibiotics. Misuse of antibiotics is now accelerating the process, and antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world. Since almost all the antibiotics we use today arose in nature, the researchers say it is likely that resistance to them already exists in nature too. Overuse of any antibiotic in humans or livestock will favor resistant strains of the bug, so it is only a matter of time before the antibiotic starts to lose its effectiveness. “This study is a stark warning that when we use antibiotics, we have to use them with care. There’s a very big wildlife ‘reservoir’ where antibiotic-resistant bacteria can survive – and from there it’s a short step for them to be picked up by livestock, and then to infect humans,” said Professor Mark Holmes, a researcher in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Veterinary Medicine and a senior author of the report.

http://outbreaknewstoday.com/mrsa-predates-clinical-use-of-antibiotics-study-29128/

 

Arizona Reports More Than 1,500 Total West Nile Virus Cases in 2021 – 1/5/2022

Since the first human West Nile virus (WNV) cases were reported in Arizona in 2003 and through 2020, the state reported a total of 1,939 cases, including a single year high of 391 in 2004. Arizona state health officials as of yesterday reported 1,567 total WNV cases (confirmed and probable) in 2021. The vast majority (85%) of the cases were reported from Maricopa County (1339), according to the most recent data. In addition, 110 deaths were reported statewide due to WNV in 2021, well more than half the total WNV deaths reported nationally. Beside Maricopa County, Pinal and Pima counties reported 120 and 94 total cases, respectively. Why the surge in 2021? One explanation is 2021 had a particularly wet summer that followed an extraordinarily dry summer in 2020. In addition, warmer-than-usual temperatures that extended through November and into early December kept the mosquito season going later than usual.

http://outbreaknewstoday.com/arizona-reports-more-than-1500-total-west-nile-virus-cases-in-2021/

 

OIE Director: Avian Influenza Has Zoonotic Potential – 1/5/2022

The strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza circulating in birds in Asia and Europe is heavily mutated and has zoonotic potential, says veterinarian Monique Eloit, director general of the World Organization for Animal Health. Most countries have effective containment strategies, but "the risk is that it mutates or that it mixes with a human flu virus that can be transmitted between humans then suddenly it takes on a new dimension," Dr. Eloit said.

https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/new-bird-flu-has-higher-risk-spread-humans-animal-health-director-2022-01-05/

 

What do we Know About the Coronavirus 'IHU' Variant – 1/5/2022

A new coronavirus variant discovered around the same time as Omicron, has been making headlines.  Researchers say it's nothing to be concerned about at the moment -- and may never be. The new variant, B.1.640.2, was discovered in a male patient at the University Hospital Institute (IHU) Mediterranee Infection in Southern France and has been dubbed the "IHU" variant. Researchers there published a report in medRxiv in late December on 12 patients confirmed to have the variant. The index case they reported, had been vaccinated and had recently returned to France from Cameroon, according to the preprint. He developed mild respiratory symptoms within 3 days of his return, according to the preprint.

The new variant had 46 mutations and 37 deletions, they found, with 14 amino acid substitutions and 12 deletions in the spike protein. The WHO classified B.1.640.2 as a "variant under monitoring" in November, after the first sequence was uploaded to the GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data) COVID database on November 4, Newsweek reported. On Tuesday, WHO COVID incident manager Abdi Mahamud confirmed that B.1.640.2 is still being monitored and does not seem to have spread much, despite the fact that it "has had a lot of chances to pick up," according to the New York Times.  But experts know too little about the variant to draw any conclusions, or even make supported assumptions. "It is too early to speculate on virological, epidemiological, or clinical features of this IHU variant " the medRxiv authors wrote.

https://www.medpagetoday.com/special-reports/exclusives/96516?xid=nl_mpt_DHE_2022-01-06&eun=g1969745d0r&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily%20Headlines%20Top%20Cat%20HeC%20%202022-01-06&utm_term=NL_Daily_DHE_dual-gmail-definition

 

Omicron May be Less Severe, but not ‘Mild’ – WHO Chief – 1/6/2022

The more infectious Omicron variant of COVID-19 appears to produce less severe disease than the globally dominant Delta strain, but should not be categorized as “mild,” the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on January 6th. Speaking at a media briefing, director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also repeated his call for greater equity globally in the distribution of and access to vaccines. Based on the current rate of vaccine rollout, 109 countries will miss the WHO’s target for 70% of the world’s population to be fully vaccinated by July, Tedros added. That aim is seen as helping end the acute phase of the pandemic. Another variant – labeled as IHU and first registered in September 2021 – is among those being monitored by the WHO but is not circulating widely, said the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, Maria van Kerkhove. There are two other categories of greater significance the WHO uses to track variants: “variant of concern”, which includes Delta and Omicron, and “variant of interest”. Speaking at the same briefing from Geneva, WHO adviser Bruce Aylward said 36 nations had not even reached 10 percent vaccination cover. Among severe patients worldwide, 80 percent were unvaccinated, he added.

https://www.rappler.com/science/life-health/omicron-less-severe-not-mild-world-health-organization/

 

  1. K.'S First Human Case of H5N1 Avian Flu Detected in Man With Pet Ducks – 1/7/2022

A 79-year-old man named Alan Gosling, who kept pet ducks at his home in Devon, England, recently became the first U.K. resident to catch the H5N1 strain of bird flu, Devon Live reported. A flock of more than 100 ducks lived outside on Gosling's property in Buckfastleigh, and after feeding the animals for some time, Gosling brought 20 of the ducks into his home to keep as pets. In December 2021, a few of the ducks in the outdoor flock fell ill, Gosling noticed.

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/bird-flu-first-brit-test-6453767


 

Animals and COVID-19

***THIS CONTENT IS NO LONGER UPDATED AS OF 1/1/2021 AND REMAINS PRESENT FOR ARCHIVAL PURPOSES***
The COVID-19 Pandemic has implications within the non-human animal world: non-human animals are the likely source of this new virus; some species have been infected with this virus inluding wildlife and companion animals; and the virus has the potential to shift again, becoming in the worst case scenario, the first pandemic to evolve into a panzoonotic.

This is not an indication to panic or abandon pets. This indicates a need to monitor the situation among both humans and non-human animals, as information about the virus is rapidly changing. On this page you will find the latest information on COVID's impact on animals, from latest reported cases around the world, to frequently asked questions about your pets.

Information is separated by species and questions. Send any questions/tips to one-health@ufl.edu.

Key Points

  • At this time, we do not have definitive evidence that an animal can infect humans with this new coronavirus, although there are very plausible cases of infection from infected farmed mink to humans (see the mink tab below for more information).
  • While there is evidence of transmission from humans to dogs, cats, and other animals, with the exception of mink, it does not appear to be a common event.
  • Animal tests for COVID-19 are specific to animals and performed by veterinary diagnostic laboratories, NOT human laboratories.
  • If you suspect that you are ill with COVID-19, you should practice the same precautions with your pet as you would with people – wear a mask, keep your distance, wash hands regularly, and avoid cuddling and other close contact.
  • As a precaution, pets should be distanced from other animals outside the household. When possible, cats should be kept indoors, and dogs should be on a leash.
 
  • Dogs

    February 2020: First dog tests positive in Hong Kong. Pomeranian, 17-year-old, owner diagnosed with COVID-19, PCR positive followed by antibody positive status. Dog later died of causes likely related to age and other known health issues, NOT COVID-191.

    March 2020: A 2-year-old German shepherd in Hong Kong is PCR positive after the owner was diagnosed with COVID-192.

    April 2020: False PCR positive in a pug in North Carolina, antibody negative, family was COVID-19 positive3.

    May 2020: An 8-year-old American bulldog from the Netherlands was antibody positive and owner had COVID-19. The dog was euthanized due to worsening breathing problems, but it is unknown if the breathing issues were caused by COVID-19 or if they were unrelated4.

    June 2020: First confirmed PCR positive in the United States. The German shepherd from COVID-19 positive household had respiratory illness. The other dog in the household was antibody positive5.

    July 2020:

    • A 6-year-old mixed breed dog in Georgia tested positive. The dog had neurological disease, however the Department of Health stated that the neurological illness was not caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus6.
    • A 2-year-old dog in Texas from a COVID-19 positive household was PCR positive but with no symptoms7.
    • An 8- or 9-year-old shepherd mix from a COVID-19 positive household in South Carolina tested positive after being euthanized for an unnamed chronic health conditon8.
    • A positive dog was also identified in Arizona via PCR in July9.

    August 2020:

    • Louisiana reported its first COVID-19 case in a dog10.
    • Japan reported 4 positive dog cases, each from a different COVID positive household. A 5th dog was tested and monitored from one of these households, but never became infected11.
    • A dog that had suddenly developed respiratory distress and subsequently died was found to be positive for COVID-19 virus. It is unclear if the direct cause of death was COVID-19 or if the dog had underlying conditions that lead to the dog’s passing12.

    October 2020: Canada reported its first case of a positive, asymptomatic dog that was identified as a part of a research study. People in the household were diagnosed with COVID-19 and likely transmitted the virus to the dog13.

    November 2020:

    • Italy reported its first case of a PCR positive, asymptomatic dog from a household of infected people14.
    • Argentina reported its first positive dog cases while evaluating animals from COVID-19 positive homes. A total of 12 dogs were tested and 4 positive cases were documented. One dog had breathing issues and a cough11.
    • Hong Kong had an asymptomatic positive dog from a COVID-19 positive home15.

    Other dogs have been confirmed by the USDA to have had the infection via antibody testing as a part of targeted, active surveillance: 2 in Utah, 2 in Wisconsin, 1 in North Carolina, and 9 in Texas9.

    REFERENCES

    1. Pet dog further tests positive for antibodies for COVID-19 virus. The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region - Press Releases. https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202003/26/P2020032600756.htm. Published 2020. Accessed April 1, 2020.
    2. Pet dog tests positive for COVID-19 virus. The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region - Press Releases. https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202003/19/P2020031900606.htm. Accessed April 1, 2020.
    3. Fisher J. USDA: NC pug never contracted COVID-19. WRAL.com News. https://www.wral.com/coronavirus/usda-nc-pug-never-contracted-covid-19/19118584/. Published May 28, 2020.
    4. ProMED. Coronavirus Disease 2019 Update (189): Netherlands Animal, Farmed Mink, Research, Cat, Dog.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7344274.
    5. Agriculture USD of. Confirmation of COVID-19 in Pet Dog in New York. 2020. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/newsroom/stakeholder-info/sa_by_date/sa-2020/sa-06/sars-cov-2-dog.
    6. Stevens A. Georgia dog tests positive for virus that causes COVID-19. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. https://www.ajc.com/news/local/breaking-georgia-dog-tests-positive-for-virus-that-causes-covid/Yilt051pRyYPEVb0Ycl92O/. Published July 1, 2020.
    7. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (308): USA (Texas) Animal, Dog Confirmed.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7554832.
    8. Duncan C. A shepherd mix is the first dog in South Carolina to test positive for the coronavirus. The State. https://www.thestate.com/news/state/south-carolina/article244271427.html. Published July 16, 2020.
    9. Agriculture USD of. Confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in Animals in the United States. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/SA_One_Health/sars-cov-2-animals-us. Published 2020.
    10. Staff. First canine with COVID-19 reported in Louisiana. WBRZ News. https://www.wbrz.com/news/first-dog-in-louisiana-reported-positive-with-covid-19/. Published August 4, 2020.
    11. OiE. COVID-19 Portal - Events in animals. https://www.oie.int/en/scientific-expertise/specific-information-and-recommendations/questions-and-answers-on-2019novel-coronavirus/events-in-animals/. Published 2020. Accessed November 30, 2020.
    12. Stelloh T. North Carolina dog that died after “acute” illness tests positive for coronavirus. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/north-carolina-dog-died-after-acute-illness-tests-positive-coronavirus-n1236477. Published August 11, 2020.
    13. Veterinarian O of C. Veterinary Advisory.; 2020. https://www.oahn.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/SARS-CoV-2-Dog-Veterinary-Disease-Advisory-2020-10-23.pdf.
    14. Di Zanni C. Positive Covid dog is the first case in Italy: “Infected by humans but unable to infect.” la Repubblica. https://bari.repubblica.it/cronaca/2020/11/11/news/cane_positivo_covid_puglia-273938357/. Published November 11, 2020.
    15. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (516): China (Hong Kong), Animal, Dog, Lithuania, Mink, OIE.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7986508.
  • Domestic Cats

    March 2020:

    • A cat in Belgium from a COVID-19 positive home tested positive from a feces sample. The cat was having diarrhea, vomiting, and breathing difficulties1.
    • An asymptomatic cat tested positive in Hong Kong2.

    April 2020: The United States confirmed its first two cases in pet cats in two different areas of New York state. Both cats had mild respiratory illness3.

    May 2020:

    • A cat in France with breathing and gastrointestinal illness and from a COVID-19 positive home was positive via rectal swab4.
    • A second cat tested positive in France, after exhibiting persistent respiratory signs that were not responsive to typical treatments5.
    • A cat in Spain that tested positive (mouth and lymph node samples) after being euthanized. This cat was euthanized most likely due to a pre-existing heart condition, and not the viral infection6.
    • Another cat in Spain was found positive from another COVID-19 positive household7.
    • Germany had its first case of SARS-CoV-2 infection in a domestic cat from a COVID-19 positive home. Two other cats living in the same home were negative5.
    • Farm cats on mink farms in the Netherlands were antibody tested and 7 out of 24 were positive. One was PCR positive8.
    • A 5-year-old cat in Russia that tested positive for the COVID-19 virus9.

    June 2020:

    • A cat with a fever and respiratory symptoms tested positive in Minnesota a week after the owner tested positive10.
    • A cat with fever, lethargy, and mouth ulcers tested positive in Illinois. The cat’s owner was a previously positive COVID-19 case11.

    July 2020:

    • A PCR positive cat in California12.
    • A positive cat in the UK from a COVID-19 positive home; the cat was symptomatic with shortness of breath13.
    • A positive but asymptomatic cat in Hong King from a COVID-19 positive home14.

    August 2020:

    • Two positive but asymptomatic cats from COVID-19 positive homes in Japan7.
    • Two positive cats in Texas from COVID-19 positive homes15.

    October 2020:

    • A positive cat in each state: Georgia, California, Maryland, Kentucky, and Alabama12.
    • Three antibody positive cats in New York and 1 in Arizona12.
    • 3 PCR positive cats from COVID-19 positive household in Chile16.
    • An asymptomatic cat tested positive in Brazil17.

    November 2020:

    • Two positive cats from COVID-19 positive homes in Argentina. One cat was inappetent and lethargic, the other with sneezing and nasal discharge7.
    • Two positive cats from COVID-19 households in Switzerland, one of which had sneezing, lethargy, and inappetence18

    Other cats have been confirmed by the USDA to have had the infection via PCR or antibody testing as a part of targeted, active surveillance: 4 in Utah, 2 in New York, 8 in Texas, and 1 in Louisiana12.

    REFERENCES

    1. Chini M. Coronavirus: Belgian woman infected her cat. The Brussels Times. https://www.brusselstimes.com/all-news/belgium-all-news/103003/coronavirus-belgian-woman-infected-her-cat/. Published 2020. Accessed April 1, 2020.
    2. Pet cat tests positive for COVID-19. The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region - Press Releases. https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202003/31/P2020033100717.htm. Accessed February 4, 2020.
    3. Agriculture USD of. Confirmation of COVID-19 in Two Pet Cats in New York.; 2020. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/newsroom/news/sa_by_date/sa-2020/sars-cov-2-animals.
    4. ProMED. Coronavirus Disease 2019 Update (149): France, Animal, Cat, Owned.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7289409.
    5. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (181).; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7332909.
    6. Domínguez N. Spain records its first case of a cat with coronavirus. El País. https://english.elpais.com/society/2020-05-08/spain-records-its-first-case-of-a-cat-with-coronavirus.html. Published 2020.
    7. OiE. COVID-19 Portal - Events in animals. https://www.oie.int/en/scientific-expertise/specific-information-and-recommendations/questions-and-answers-on-2019novel-coronavirus/events-in-animals/. Published 2020. Accessed November 30, 2020.
    8. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (209): Netherlands Farmed Mink, Animal-to-Human, Cat, Epid.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=20200525.7375359.
    9. ProMED. COVID-19 Update: Russia Animal, Cat, OIE.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7379578.
    10. Walsh P. Carver County pet cat tests positive for coronavirus. Star Tribune. https://www.startribune.com/carver-county-pet-cat-tests-positive-for-coronavirus/570963412/. Published June 2, 2020.
    11. Association CVM. Illinois Cat Positive for COVID-19.https://www.chicagovma.org/2020/06/08/illinois-cat-positive-for-covid-19/. Published June 8, 2020.
    12. Agriculture USD of. Confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in Animals in the United States. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/SA_One_Health/sars-cov-2-animals-us. Published 2020. Accessed October 31, 2020.
    13. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (334): Animals, Netherlands, Mink, Spread, UK, Cat, 1st Case, OIE.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7617582.
    14. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (330): China (Hong Kong) Animal, Cat, OIE.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7609215.
    15. DeMoss A. Texas A&M research project identifies first COVID-19 positive cats in Texas. KBTX. https://www.kbtx.com/2020/08/06/texas-am-research-project-identifies-first-covid-19-positive-cats-in-texas/. Published August 6, 2020.
    16. ProMED. Coronavirus Disease 2019 Update (452): Chile, Animal, Cat, OIE.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7885452.
    17. ProMED. Coronavirus Disease 2019 Update (463): Brazil, Animal, Cat, OIE.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7905784.
    18. COVID-19 Update (519): Switzerland, Animal, Cat, OIE.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7993204.
  • Large Cats

    April 2020:

    • A tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive via nasal swab under anesthesia after she, three other tigers, and 3 lions developed a dry cough. The other large cats were positive via fecal swabs. Infection occurred due to exposure to a caretaker with COVID, prior to that person developing symptoms1. One other tiger at Tiger Mountain was positive on a fecal swab but did not show symptoms. None of the other large cats (leopards, cheetahs, pumas, or servals) have shown signs of illness nor have a positive fecal swab test.

    October 2020:

    • 3 Malayan tigers at Zoo Knoxville in Tennessee showed signs of illness such as cough, lethargy, and decreased appetite. One of the three tigers was tested for a range of diseases and was confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2. The other tigers are presumed to be positive and their confirmatory tests are in process2.

    December 2020:

    • Lions at the Barcelona Zoo tested positive for COVID-19. The lions were tested due to mild respiratory signs. Two zoo staff members also tested positive3.
    • Three snow leopards at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky tested positive after developing mild respiratory signs4.

    REFERENCES

    1. WCS Newsroom. A Tiger at Bronx Zoo Tests Positive for COVID-19; The Tiger and the Zoo’s Other Cats Are Doing Well at This Time. https://newsroom.wcs.org/News-Releases/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/14010/A-Tiger-at-Bronx-Zoo-Tests-Positive-for-COVID-19-The-Tiger-and-the-Zoos-Other-Cats-Are-Doing-Well-at-This-Time.aspx. Accessed May 4, 2020.
    2. Wenzel J. Tiger at zoo in Knoxville tests positive for SARS-CoV-2, two others possibly infected. CNNWire. https://abc7.com/tiger-zoo-knoxville-animals-covid/7491386/. Published October 30, 2020.
    3. Keeley G, Rodriguez E. Four lions at Spanish zoo test positive for COVID-19. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-spain-zoo/four-lions-at-spanish-zoo-test-positive-for-covid-19-idUSKBN28I1EJ. Published December 8, 2020.
    4. Andrew S. Three snow leopards test positive for coronavirus, making it the sixth confirmed animal species. CNN News. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/12/11/us/snow-leopard-positive-coronavirus-kentucky-zoo-trnd/index.html. Published December 11, 2020.
  • Mink

    April 2020:

    • Two mink farms in the Netherlands tested positive; the animals were likely infected by an employee with the virus1.

    June 2020:

    • Denmark reported its first positive at a mink farm in June. As a precaution, all mink were culled from this farm2.

    July 2020:

    • Denmark pursued a new strategy of no longer cull mink, but to test regularly and implement strict protective equipment measures3.
    • Spain culled 93,000 mink after the wife of a farmer had tested positive prompted further investigation at the farm. Seven total farmers tested positive including the woman’s husband, and up to 80% of the mink at this farm subsequently tested positive4.
    • The Netherlands now has 26 positive mink farms. By 2024, mink farms will discontinue activities based on a previously decided law5.

    August 2020:

    • The United States reported its first cases of COVID-19 in 2 different mink farms in Utah; they were discovered when a higher number of animal deaths were reported6.
    • The Netherlands revised the original order to end mink breeding by 2024; mink farming will now be discontinued by spring 20217. Approximately 1.5 million mink have been culled from 33 positive farms so far, in the interest of preventing these animals as becoming reservoirs8.

    October 2020:

    • Sweden reported its first cases of COVID-19 on a mink farm. At that time, the Swedish board of Agriculture decided not to cull those animals but instead place restrictions on the affected farm9.
    • Italy reported its first cases of positive mink to OIE in October, although the first cases were identified in August10.
    • In the Netherlands, up to 70 mink farms have been affected9.
    • In Denmark, infections have increased and at least 63 farms are affected; culling has resumed11.
    • In the United States, outbreaks escalated to 9 farms in Utah, and approximately 8,000 mink have died from the disease thus far12. A farm in Wisconsin also found positive cases after an increase of deaths prompted testing for the COVID-19 virus13. Positive mink were also identified on a farm in Michigan14.

    November 2020:

    • In Sweden, 9 more cases of infection were identified and 18 farms are being tested for COVID-1915.
    • In the United States, 2 more farms in Wisconsin were under quarantine and over 5,000 mink have died from the virus16. Positive mink were also found on a farm in Oregon17.
    • Greece reported an outbreak at two mink farms in the north18.
    • France, Lithuania, and Poland also had outbreaks in mink farms in November19.
    • Denmark is up to 207 positive mink farms. There is evidence that the farmed mink had spread a mutated version of the COVID-19 virus back to humans; in response, and out of concern that future vaccines will be less effective, the government is asking to cull the entire mink population of Denmark (approximately 15-17 million mink)20. Since then, the government dropped this plan as they did not find evidence that the mutated version put future vaccines at risk21.

    December 2020:

    • In Sweden, 13 mink farms are confirmed as infected with SARS-CoV-222.
    • In Greece, 15 more farms were affected23. Only the first farm was culled, but control measures since then has been quarantine and increasing biosecurity.
    • Canada had its first outbreak at a mink farm when farmers tested positive, followed by positive tests in multiple mink on the farm24.
    • The United States confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in free-ranging wild mink in Utah, discovered as a part of wildlife surveillance in the area. The genetic sequence of the virus matched the virus obtained from farmed mink in the area25.

    REFERENCES

    1. Sterling T. Mink found to have coronavirus on two Dutch farms: ministry. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-netherlands-mink/mink-found-to-have-coronavirus-on-two-dutch-farms-ministry-idUSKCN2280FZ. Published 2020.
    2. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (266): Denmark Animal, Farmed Mink, 1st Rep.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7479510.
    3. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (307): Netherlands, Denmark, Farmed Mink, Spread, Control. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7553067.
    4. Landauro I. Spain to cull 93,000 mink at a farm hit by coronavirus. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-spain-minks/spain-to-cull-93000-mink-at-a-farm-hit-by-coronavirus-idUSKCN24H28U. Published July 16, 2020.
    5. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (334): Animals, Netherlands, Mink, Spread, UK, Cat, 1st Case, OIE.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7617582.
    6. Stephenson K. Utah mink test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. The Salt Lake Tribune. https://www.sltrib.com/news/2020/08/17/utah-mink-test-positive/. Published August 17, 2020.
    7. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (394): Netherlands Animal, Farmed Mink, Spread.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7759382.
    8. Coronavirus found on more mink farms, pressure mounts on minister to close them all. DutchNews.nl. https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2020/08/coroanvirus-found-on-more-mink-farms-pressure-mounts-on-minister-to-close-them-all/. Published August 17, 2020.
    9. ProMED. Coronavirus Disease 2019 Update (461): Animal, Sweden, Mink, First Case.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7903582.
    10. OiE. COVID-19 Portal - Events in animals. https://www.oie.int/en/scientific-expertise/specific-information-and-recommendations/questions-and-answers-on-2019novel-coronavirus/events-in-animals/. Published 2020. Accessed November 30, 2020.
    11. Olsen JM. Danes start culling 2.5 million minks after virus hits farms. AP News. https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-denmark-archive-f2b8ffc83f4bdef3c625de1ba6d533ab. Published October 12, 2020.
    12. Aleccia J. Thousands of Minks Dead as COVID Outbreak Escalates on Utah Farms. KHN. https://khn.org/news/thousands-of-minks-dead-as-covid-outbreak-escalates-on-utah-farms/. Published October 2, 2020.
    13. Hubbuch C. Coronavirus found in mink on Taylor County ranch; first documented case in state’s $227M industry. Wisconsin State Journal. https://madison.com/wsj/news/local/health-med-fit/coronavirus-found-in-mink-on-taylor-county-ranch-first-documented-case-in-states-227m-industry/article_875a26f7-54e1-585f-9e02-d5b33e724f55.html. Published October 8, 2020.
    14. Rahman N. Mink at Michigan farm test positive for virus that causes COVID-19. Detroit Free Press. https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/10/09/mink-michigan-farm-tests-positive-coronavirus/5943633002/. Published October 9, 2020.
    15. COVID-19 Update (477): Animal, Sweden, Mink, Spread, Genotyping.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7924269.
    16. Schulte L. Two Taylor County mink farms under quarantine after more that 5,000 animals died from COVID-19. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/local/wisconsin/2020/11/06/two-taylor-county-mink-farms-under-quarantine-after-over-5-000-animals-died-from-covid-19/6174241002/. Published 2020.
    17. Loew T. An Oregon mink farm has a COVID-19 outbreak among animals and workers. Salem Statesman Journal. https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/local/coronavirus/2020/11/27/covid-19-confirmed-10-oregon-mink-farm-regon-department-agriculture/6441838002/. Published November 27, 2020.
    18. Papadimas L, Koutantou A. Coronavirus found in Greek mink farms: ministry official. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-greece-mink-idUSKBN27T1AN. Published November 13, 2020.
    19. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (510): Animal, Mink, Lithuania, Poland, 1st Reports, France, OIE.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7976927.
    20. Denmark wants to cull 15 million minks over COVID fears. AP News. https://apnews.com/article/denmark-cull-15-million-minks-covid-19-37f57a303bbf738efca50918c35696de. Published November 4, 2020.
    21. Lanese N. Denmark halts plan to cull 17 million mink over coronavirus infections. Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/mink-culling-denmark-coronavirus-update.html. Published November 10, 2020.
    22. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (546): Animal, Sweden, Mink, Surveillance, Spread, Control, RFI.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=8033896.
    23. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (542): Animal, Greece Mink Mutation, Human, OIE.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=8027113.
    24. Weisgarber M, Mangione K. B.C. mink farm under quarantine after animals test positive for COVID-19. CTV News. https://bc.ctvnews.ca/b-c-mink-farm-under-quarantine-after-animals-test-positive-for-covid-19-1.5223936?autoPlay=true. Published December 9, 2020.
    25. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (536): Animal, USA, Wild Mink, 1st Case.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=8015608.
  • Rabbits, Ferrets, and Golden Syrian Hamsters

    While there have NOT been any documented cases of naturally infected rabbits, ferrets, or hamsters, early and unpublished studies have shown that they are possibly susceptible to infection, and precautions should be considered if you are ill and have these animals in the household1–3. There is some evidence that while rabbits and ferrets can become infected, they seem to require closer contact for transmission, may be asymptomatic, and may not be able to spread it easily to others4,5.

    REFERENCES

    1. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (169): Netherlands Animal, Farmed Mink, Spread, Rabbit Susp.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7316646.
    2. Shi J, Wen Z, Zhong G, et al. Susceptibility of Ferrets, Cats, Dogs, and Different Domestic Animals to SARS-Coronavirus-2.; 2020. doi:https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.30.015347
    3. Chan JF-W, Zhang AJ, Yuan S, et al. Simulation of the clinical and pathological manifestations of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in golden Syrian hamster model: implications for disease pathogenesis and transmissibility. Clin Infect Dis. March 2020. doi:10.1093/cid/ciaa325
    4. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (379): Animal, Rabbit, Exptl Infect, Netherlands, Screening.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=20200828.7726781.
    5. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (376): Animal, Ferret, Mink, Comment.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=20200827.7721923.
  • Testing Information

    In the United States, IDEXX, a veterinary testing service, announced that they have developed a test for COVID-19 in pets. In the process of validating this new test, thousands of samples (collected for other reasons) were tested from the U.S.; all tests for COVID-19 in those cats and dogs were negative1.

     

    The USDA has begun tracking positive animal cases in the United States that have been confirmed by USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories, and are reporting them on their website: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/SA_One_Health/sars-cov-2-animals-us

     

    All information to date indicates that some animals are able to be infected by the COVID-19 virus, but it appears to be an infrequent occurrence. In Hong Kong, at least 30 dogs and 17 cats have been tested from homes with owners that were either confirmed COVID-19 cases or were close contacts to a COVID-19 patient, and only 2 dogs and 1 cat have tested positive.

    REFERENCES

    1. Idexx Laboratories. Leading Veterinary Diagnostic Company Sees No COVID-19 Cases in Pets.; 2020. https://www.idexx.com/en/about-idexx/news/no-covid-19-cases-pets/.
  • Can animals infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the COVID-19 virus) spread the infection to humans?

    Recently, there has been strong evidence of at least two humans becoming infected after exposure to infected mink at farms in the Netherlands1,2. It is suspected that a human initially infected the mink at the farm, and then the infection spread back to other humans from these infected minks. In November, Denmark reported proof of human to mink to human transmission, as well as evidence of viral mutation during this infection cycle3.

    In response to this evidence, the OIE released a statement acknowledging concerns about animals becoming reservoirs for the virus, and the possibility of future spillover events from animals to humans. In light of this public health concern, the OIE recommends the following: 1) implementing national risk reduction strategies and a One Health approach to prevent the transmission of the virus between humans and susceptible animals, 2) monitor susceptible animals and humans in contact with these animals, 3) report cases to the OIE, and 4) share genetic sequences and other research findings and data4.

    REFERENCES

    1. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (198): Netherlands Farmed Mink, Animal-to-Human Infect Susp.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7359976.
    2. ProMED. COVID-19 Update (209): Netherlands Farmed Mink, Animal-to-Human, Cat, Epid.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=20200525.7375359.
    3. Skydsgaard N, Gronholt-Pedersen J. Denmark plans to cull its mink population after coronavirus mutation spreads to humans. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/healthcoronavirus-denmark-mink-idUSL1N2HQ2CI. Published November 4, 2020.
    4. OIE Statement on COVID-19 and Mink. Paris; 2020. https://www.oie.int/en/for-the-media/press-releases/detail/article/oie-statement-on-covid-19-and-mink/?fbclid=IwAR3y6B84EzR7lhyFfH-XIy8zg8aafPXm0E0-6RdxBw7X103FzR5v0X9P4Ac&cHash=83a7e5fc23.
  • Are there any studies investigating the COVID-19 virus in animals?

    A study out of the University of Minnesota and University of North Carolina looked at which animals have the most similar receptors to the virus when compared to humans. These receptors are used by the virus to enter the cell and cause infection.  The study observed cats, ferrets, pigs, and non-human primates have the most similar receptors to human receptors1.

    A small study (not peer reviewed or published at this time, which means it has not been evaluated by other scientists for validity and suitability for publication) out of an OIE collaborating research center in China investigated the ability of ferrets, dogs, cats, pigs, chickens, and ducks to become infected with the COVID-19 virus. Both ferrets and cats were able to be infected through direct exposure (placing virus into the nose). One cat became infected through close contact alone, which suggests that cats can spread the virus through respiratory droplets to other cats. Dogs were able to become infected with direct exposure, but did not become infected through close contact, and none of the dogs had symptoms. The pigs, chickens, and ducks did not become infected2.

    Another very small study (not peer reviewed or published at this time) found that cats are highly susceptible to subclinical SARS-CoV-2 infection. This means they can become infected from humans or other cats, but typically do not have clinical signs or do not appear ill. While they are infected, however, they can spread the virus to other cats. Dogs were able to become infected but did not shed virus during infection. Therefore, dogs were unable to spread the virus3. Another small study (not peer reviewed or published at this time) demonstrated similar findings with cats: infected cats in the study were asymptomatic but were able to spread the virus to other cats in just a few days4.

    A study performed in Hong Kong found evidence that human to cat transmission is possible but not common, with 6 out of 50 cats in COVID-19 positive households testing positive for the virus. One of the cats that tested positive had the identical viral genome sequence, providing more evidence that the infection was almost certainly acquired by the humans in the household5.

    A small study with 7 cats and 3 dogs observed that dogs can become infected and mount an immune response to SARS-CoV-2, but do not shed virus; cats are susceptible to productive SARS-CoV-2 infection but are unlikely to develop clinical disease (signs and symptoms). Cats in this study also were resistant to reinfection, meaning cats could be useful to study further for vaccine development in humans6.

    Researchers at the University College London published a study7 in Scientific Reports (Nature) showing that dozens of animals have the ACE2 spike protein, which allows the virus to infect the host. The study also reported that most birds, fish, and reptiles do not appear susceptible. This study highlights the importance of surveilling and monitoring farmed and wildlife species to detect possible reservoirs and prevent future outbreaks8.

    In August, the Wildlife Health Specialist Group (WHSG) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the World Animal Health Organization created guidelines centered on SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk to free-ranging wild mammals. In this document, the risk of reverse zoonosis and the possibility of the wildlife population to become a reservoir for the virus is discussed in detail. Click here for the guidelines.

    A study in Germany evaluated raccoon dogs as a potential intermediate host. The study found that raccoon dogs are susceptible to infection and are able to transmit the virus to other raccoon dogs in close proximity9.

    REFERENCES

    1. Wan Y, Shang J, Graham R, Baric RS, Li F. Receptor recognition by novel coronavirus from Wuhan: An analysis based on decade-long structural studies of SARS. J Virol. 2020;(March):1-9. doi:10.1128/jvi.00127-20
    2. Shi J, Wen Z, Zhong G, et al. Susceptibility of Ferrets, Cats, Dogs, and Different Domestic Animals to SARS-Coronavirus-2.; 2020. doi:https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.30.015347
    3. Bosco-Lauth AM, Hartwig AE, Porter SM, et al. Pathogenesis, Transmission and Response to Re-Exposure of SARS-CoV-2 in Domestic Cats.; 2020. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.28.120998v1.full.pdf.
    4. Gaudreault NN, Trujillo JD, Carossino M, et al. SARS-CoV-2 infection, disease and transmission in domestic cats. bioRxiv. January 2020:2020.08.04.235002. doi:10.1101/2020.08.04.235002
    5. Barrs VR, Peiris M, Tam KW, et al. SARS-CoV-2 in quarantined domestic cats from COVID-19 households or close contacts, Hong Kong, China. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020;26(12). doi:https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2612.202786
    6. Bosco-Lauth AM, Hartwig AE, Porter SM, et al. Experimental infection of domestic dogs and cats with SARS-CoV-2: Pathogenesis, transmission, and response to reexposure in cats. Proc Natl Acad Sci. September 2020:202013102. doi:10.1073/pnas.2013102117
    7. Lam SD, Bordin N, Waman VP, et al. SARS-CoV-2 spike protein predicted to form complexes with host receptor protein orthologues from a broad range of mammals. Sci Rep. 2020;10(1):16471. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-71936-5
    8. Ng K. Dozens of mammals including pigs and horses could be susceptible to coronavirus, study shows. Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/coronavirus-pigs-horses-mammals-susceptible-infection-university-college-london-study-b802453.html. Published October 5, 2020.
    9. ProMED. Coronavirus Disease 2019 Update (448): Animal, Raccoon Dog, Research, Experimental Infection.; 2020. https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=7880283.
  • Should I avoid contact with my pet?

    Because this virus is new and we are still learning, as a precaution you should restrict contact with your pets if you are diagnosed with COVID-19. If this is not possible, wash your hands before touching your pet, avoid snuggling and other close contact, and wear a facemask or something to cover your nose and mouth.

  • Should I monitor my pet for anything?

    There are no specific recommendations or guidelines at this time. However, in general, monitor your pet for any signs of illness (coughing, sneezing, excessive sleepiness, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing). Contact your veterinarian if these occur, particularly if your pet has been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

  • Should my pet wear a facemask?

    No. Currently, there are shortages of supplies such as facemasks, and medical personnel and those sick with COVID-19 should have first access to these masks. Additionally, especially in certain breeds, masks can cause breathing difficulty.

  • Should I get my pet vaccinated for coronavirus?

    There is currently no vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. The canine coronavirus vaccine is not effective for preventing COVID-19, it is only effective for preventing canine coronavirus, which is a virus that causes severe diarrhea. They are two different coronaviruses.

    In September, a vaccine candidate to protect cats from the virus that causes COVID-19 began clinical trials1. If successful, it will likely not be available until 2021 at the earliest.

    REFERENCES:

    1. Nair A. Applied DNA to initiate clinical trial of Covid-19 vaccine for cats. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-applied-dna-sciences/applied-dna-to-initiate-clinical-trial-of-covid-19-vaccine-for-cats-idUSL4N2GD279. Published September 16, 2020.