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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pat Fricano is a One Health Collaborator that organizes and compiles a weekly list of zoonotic disease updates. 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.
WHO Sounds Alarm Over Coronavirus Case Spike in Europe – 1/7/2021
New cases of coronavirus are spiking across Europe and the emergence of a new, more rapidly spreading variant of the virus has created an "alarming situation" on the continent, says Dr. Hans Kluge, Europe Director for the World Health Organization. "For a short period of time, we need to do more than we have done and to intensify the public health and social measures to be certain we can flatten the steep vertical line in some countries," Kluge says.
France: Death Due to Rabies–European Bat Lyssavirus Type 1 – 1/9/2021
According to a retrospective analysis, the Institute Pasteur has reported the death of a 60-year-old Limoges man had died from European bat Lyssavirus type 1 in August 2019. It is believed the victim was bitten or scratched by a bat nesting in the attic of his house. In August 2019, he died of encephalitis, the cause of which was not known. A partnership established between the Necker hospital and the Pasteur Institute, aimed at identifying the causes of undocumented encephalitis, led to the genetic analysis of post-mortem samples. These analyzes at Necker Hospital in Paris showed that he had contracted a lyssavirus, European Bat Lyssavirus type 1 (EBLV-1).
“It’s been 35 years since such a death happened in the world. And in mainland France it’s really the first. In Russia, in 1985, only one other case of human encephalitis caused by this strain was confirmed, and two more cases of rabies were described in Finland in 1985 and in Scotland in 2002. They were caused by a different species of bat lysavirus, and killed two scientists specializing in bats research,” Laurent Dashe, deputy head of the Pasteur Institute’s national rabies reference center told AFP. He suggested that “the patient had contact with bats nesting in his attic.” Dashe said rabies has been officially eradicated in France since 2002, adding that “the last death related to non-flying animals in France occurred in 1998.”
WHO Investigators Get Green Light From China for Virus Probe – 1/11/2021
Experts from the World Health Organization are due to arrive in China this week for a long-anticipated investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the government said Monday. The experts will arrive on Thursday and meet with Chinese counterparts, the National Health Commission said in a one-sentence statement that gave no other details. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the experts will travel to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019. Negotiations for the visit have long been underway. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed disappointment last week over delays, saying that members of the international scientific team departing from their home countries had already started on their trip as part of an arrangement between WHO and the Chinese government.
Mad Cow Disease Case Reported in Spain – 1/11/2021
The Ministerio de Agricultura in Madrid, Spain recently notified the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) of a case of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a cow on a farm in Viniegra de Arriba, La Rioja. On 22 December 2020, the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Algete, Madrid (National Reference Laboratory for TSEs, accredited under UNE-EN ISO/IEC 17025 standard) received a nerve tissue sample suspected to be infected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) from the Regional Laboratory for Animal Health in La Rioja, Finca “La Grajera” (official regional laboratory), after a positive result was obtained through a HerdCheck BSE Antigen Test Kit (Idexx Laboratories) rapid test.
The National Reference Laboratory carried out the confirmation tests authorized according to EU Regulation No. 1148/2014. The selected test was the BioRad inmuno-blotting TeSeE Western Blot (Ref:3551169), with a positive result. Afterwards, tests for BSE strain discrimination were carried out through hybrid immunoblotting with antibodies against PrP, confirming atypical BSE (H type strain). The sample was taken within the national TSE surveillance program (sampling of dead or non-slaughtered for human consumption animals over 48 months old). The animal was a crossbred cow born on April 20th, 2003.
BSE is an animal disease that affects cattle (it belongs to spongiform encephalopathies transmissible subacute group (TSE). They are degenerative diseases of the central nervous system that are caused by agents called “pathogenic prions”. The BSE is characterized by the appearance of nervous symptoms in adult animals. The characteristic symptoms of the disease are changes in behavior and locomotor disorders.
Toxoplasma Gondii Infection Tied to Elevated Glioma Risk – 1/11/2020
Researchers found an association between seropositivity for Toxoplasma gondii antibodies and glioma risk, and people with the highest levels of T. gondii antibodies were most likely to have brain tumors, according to a study in the International Journal of Cancer. T. gondii infections can arise from consuming water or undercooked meat contaminated with the parasite, and avoidance may reduce brain cancer risk, but more studies are needed, researchers said.
WHO Sounds Alarm Over Highly Infectious Virus Variants – 1/11/2021
New, more infectious strains of the coronavirus discovered in the UK, South Africa and Japan pose a serious threat to hospitals already struggling with the burden of pandemic patients, World Health Organization officials say. The agency this week reiterated its call for vaccine producers to supply its COVAX initiative with shots to distribute in poor countries, noting it hopes to begin vaccination campaigns in February.
Wisconsin: Shawano County Deer Tests Positive for Chronic Wasting Disease – 1/13/2021
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources confirms a wild deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease in the town of Germania in southwestern Shawano County. As required by law, the DNR will renew the baiting and feeding bans in Shawano and Waupaca counties because of the short distance between the two areas. The positive deer was an adult doe harvested during the 2020 gun deer season. Wildlife officials say they will continue surveillance near the detection site. This is the first wild deer detection in Shawano County.
Avian Influenza Outbreaks Continue in Asia, Europe – 1/13/2020
More than 20 million chickens in Japan and South Korea have been culled since November, and highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza has been found in birds in 10 Indian states. More than 100,000 chickens were culled at an egg farm in central Hungary after avian influenza was found there, and a 6-mile surveillance zone was established around the farm.
Most of WHO Virus Origin Probe Team Arrive in China – 1/14/2020
A team of World Health Organization experts have arrived in China and are in quarantine as they prepare to investigate the origins of the current pandemic, although two members of the team were denied entry after testing positive for Covid-19 antibodies. WHO Health Emergencies Program chief Dr. Mike Ryan says the team is in China to gain knowledge that could help prevent future pandemics, not to assign blame for the current crisis.
Evidence of Zika Virus Infection in Pigs and Mosquitoes, Mexico – 2/2021
Pigs are susceptible to experimental Zika virus infection, but evidence of natural infection is lacking. Microcephaly has occurred in fetal piglets after in utero inoculation, and neurologic disease has occurred in neonates after intracranial inoculation, suggesting that pigs are a suitable animal model for the study of Zika virus. Three-month-old pigs exposed to Zika virus through subcutaneous and intradermal injection produce antibodies but not viremias, indicating that pigs could be suitable sentinels. We performed a serologic investigation in the state of Yucatan, Mexico, to determine whether pigs are susceptible to natural Zika virus infection. Mosquitoes temporally and spatially associated with the pigs were tested for evidence of Zika virus infection to increase our understanding of the vector range of the virus.
SARS-CoV-2 Transmission between Mink and Humans, Denmark – 2/2021
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 has caused a pandemic in humans. Farmed mink (Neovison vison) are also susceptible. In Denmark, this virus has spread rapidly among farmed mink, resulting in some respiratory disease. Full-length virus genome sequencing revealed novel virus variants in mink. These variants subsequently appeared within the local human community.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.