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Dutch house pets test positive for COVID-19

May 15, 2020

Four house pets in the Netherlands have shown traces of the new coronavirus. A dog contracted COVID-19, while three cats tested positive for viral antibodies. The dog is believed to have been infected by its owner.

Dog in Ankara
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/B. Ozbilici

The Netherlands' National Institute for Health has said the risk of animals infecting humans remained very small, despite four positive tests since last month.

Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten urged patients with the potentially fatal virus COVID-19 to "avoid contact with their animals" on Friday in a letter to parliament.

"Sick animals belonging to people with COVID-19 should be kept inside as much as possible," said Schouten, adding the chances of cross-species transfer were slim.

Mercy killing for bulldog 

The 8-year-old American bulldog appeared to have been infected by its owner who had COVID-19. The dog was put down on April 30 after suffering severe breathing problems.

A blood sample afterwards showed it had developed antibodies to the Sars-CoV-2 virus behind the worldwide pandemic.

In February, a dog in Hong Kong whose owner had the disease, was tested "weakly positive" for the virus.

Schouten wrote that the three cats, also found to have developed antibodies, had lived near one of two mink farms east of Eindhoven, in the southern Brabant area. 

These farms were put into quarantine in April after the ferret-like animal was found to be infected — the first such reported case in the Netherlands.

Among humans, the Dutch Noord Brabant province has seen the country's worst coronavirus outbreak.

Rare cases, so far

Other animal coronavirus cases reported around the world include a pet cat in Belgium and a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York.

At the time, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CD) said: "There's no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people.''

Animals could get the virus from people,but there was no sign that animals were transmitting it in the reverse direction to humans, said the CDC's Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh.

Last year, bats in China were identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the likely reservoir of COVID-19 but they left open which intermediate animal was host as the virus spread to humans.

So far, the Netherlands has reported 5,643 human deaths from the novel coronavirus and 43,681 identified cases of infection.

ipj/stb (AFP, Reuters)

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