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First case of cat-to-human Covid transfer reported

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LAHORE: Scientists in Thailand have reported the first solid evidence of a pet cat infecting a person — a veterinary surgeon — with Covid-19, though researchers say such cases of cat-to-human transmission are probably rare.

As per a report published in the science journal Nature on Wednesday, researchers said the results were convincing, but were surprised it took this long to establish the transmission.

The finding, published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on June 6, came about by accident, said co-author Sarunyou Chusri, an infectious-disease researcher and physician at Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai, southern Thailand. In August 2021, a father and son, who had tested positive for Covid-19, were transferred to an isolation ward at the university’s hospital. Their 10-year-old cat was also swabbed and tested positive. While being swabbed, the cat sneezed in the face of a veterinary surgeon, who was wearing a mask and gloves but no eye protection.

Three days later, the vet developed a fever, sniffles and a cough, and later tested positive for Covid, but none of her close contacts developed the disease, suggesting she had been infected by the cat.

Experimental studies have shown that infected cats don’t shed much virus, and shed for only a few days, says Leo Poon, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, with Chusri saying people “should not abandon their cats, but take more care of them” in such cases.

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2022

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