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SARS-CoV-2 in Quarantined Domestic Cats from COVID-19 Households or Close Contacts, Hong Kong, China.

Added 25 November 2020

Barrs, V.R. et al. (2020) SARS-CoV-2 in Quarantined Domestic Cats from COVID-19 Households or Close Contacts, Hong Kong, China. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 26 (12), p. 3071-3074 https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2612.202786.

This letter reports on the results of samples taken from 50 cats during 11 February – 11 August, 2020.  At this time, as a precautionary measure mammalian pets from households with confirmed human coronavirus disease (COVID-19) or their close contacts (defined as a person who had face-to-face contact for >15 minutes with a person who had confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection were quarantined by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong.

The cats were swabbed (nasal, oral, rectal) for SARS-CoV-2 and confined until reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) results are negative on two consecutive occasions. SARS-CoV-2 RNA persisted longest in nasal secretions, in one case for 11 days at low levels.

Time from onset of COVID-19 symptoms in owners to first sampling of their cats was available for 21 owners of 35 cats and ranged from 3 to 15 (median 8, interquartile range 4) days. SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in samples from 6 (12%) of 50 cats. Signs of disease did not develop in any cats.

The timeline of infection in cat 1 (which had no outdoor access) and the finding of an identical SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence in a human from the same household is consistent with human-to-animal transmission. Although feline-to-human transmission is theoretically possible, the authors did not find any evidence of this transmission