One case was enough for the World Health Organization to reverse and lose the few certainties it had on the subject – although if the battle is statistical the numbers are still on its side. Until a few days ago, on the official website of the United Nations agency and health authority, the information was very clear: housed in the section dedicated to deconstructing myths about the new coronavirus, the WHO information guaranteed that there was no evidence that pets how dogs and cats could be infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that can cause Covid-19 disease. And now? Is that so?
The excerpt from the WHO website was deleted and due to a case: that of a dog in Hong Kong, of the German Spitz-dwarf breed, which was effectively infected with this new coronavirus, as concluded after positive tests. He showed no signs of illness, but he did show signs of infection.
The result of testing for SARS-CoV-2 infection in the Hong Kong dog has many details that deserve attention and are being taken into account as the possible impact of the infection on pets is investigated. The dog in question lived with a human owner who was not only infected with the new virus but was ill – and, after testing the dog, the surprising results came: in the English version, a Hong Kong government agency described them as “ weakly positive ”, which in Portuguese will mean something like“ weakly positive ”.
According to international media reports, the dog never showed signs of illness and would not have had Covid-19 – but it was effectively infected by the virus that may or may not trigger the disease. As can be seen in a long and detailed text published on the website of the Association of Veterinary Physicians of the USA, the first samples from the Hong Kong dog, which was 17 years old, had “weakly positive tests”. A stool sample that was negative was then taken. This was followed by another series of screening diagnoses – nasal and oral samples taken on "February 28, March 2 and March 5" – which had "continuously" weakly positive tests.
What the results suggest, believes the American Veterinary Association, is that “a small portion of SARS-CoV-2 ribonucleic acid was contained in the samples” – because it is small, it will require further analysis. However, experts "from the School of Public Health University of Hong Kong and the University of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences at City University of Hong Kong" believe that "the consistency and persistence" of the results "suggests that the virus may have spread spread of infected people to the dog in this specific case ”. Whether there will be other cases like this, nobody knows yet. As for the likelihood of this type of contagion happening being high, there is a consensus: it is not high. But impossible, it won't be either.
There are those who are especially skeptical, such as microbiologist Shelley Rankin of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. To the magazine Science Mag, the expert pointed out: “The SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads from humans to humans. There is currently no research to support the thesis that a human being can infect an animal. The Hong Kong dog samples had a small number of virus particles present. In an animal without clinical signs of disease, it is difficult to say what this means. It was a unique case and we realized that much more research needs to be done regarding the potential for humans to infect animals with SARS-CoV-19. That said, dogs and cats are also mammals. They have many of the same types of receptors in their cells. The virus could theoretically attach itself to these receptors. But will it enter the cells and replicate (the effect)? Probably not".
The hypothesis that humans infected with Covid-19 could infect their pets has ceased to appear an absolute impossibility with the Hong Kong dog case, but not only the effects of the new coronavirus on this species seem weak when they are detected – to judge for the unique case of detection – as will be rare, judging by the few other tests already carried out. A battery of tests recently made by the American multinational Idexx Laboratories on “thousands” of canine and feline species, did not detect a single positive case of infection, according to the company.
Despite the odds played in favor of the most skeptical, due to this atypical case of the Hong Kong dog and as all precaution is little, it is recommended that humans who are sick with Covid-19 do not have close contact with their pets. pet, just in case.
A plan B to ensure the well-being of the pet, should the caregiver and owner become infected with the infectious disease and should restrict contact with the dog or cat, it is also a advised measure. The maxim says: prevention is better than cure.
The case seems unique, given that there are no other examples of pets that have contracted this new type of coronavirus. From the outset, the cases in which a pet is subjected to the SARS-CoV-2 test are exceptional, not least because until the beginning of the month, the health authorities of each country, following the WHO guidelines, did not believe that there was even a possibility any pets may be affected by this new infectious outbreak.
Interestingly, some maintain absolute certainties – or at least have not updated the official information regarding the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. At 10am this Monday, March 16, on the Ministry of Health page dedicated to Covid-19, it was also read: “According to information from the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no evidence that domestic animals , such as dogs and cats, have been infected and that, consequently, can transmit Covid-19 “.
In fact, WHO even wrote this – but last Friday, February 14, the information was removed, as reported by the news organization Quartz. Contacted precisely by this news agency, the World Health Organization corrected the information: the new guideline is now that "there is currently no evidence that pets such as dogs and cats have infected humans with Covid-19".
The WHO formulation regarding the possibility of pets being infected with SARS-CoV-2 and infecting owners and humans with this new type of coronavirus is cautious – “There is no evidence…” – but among infectious diseases, health organizations and veterinary associations there is some consensus that the existing data, few so far, suggest that this type of animal-human contagion is highly unlikely.
In Portugal, this Monday, the Order of Veterinary Physicians subscribed to the international appeal to people who are sick with Covid-19 who do not directly contact pets.
Cited by Agência Lusa, the president of veterinarians, Jorge Cid, also stressed that “there is no scientific evidence that pet animals can transmit the virus to their holder” but recommended that anyone who is infected should have an alternative plan to take care of the animals. your animals, or wear a mask and glove if you really have to keep doing it for yourself.
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