A study of 102 domestic and stray cats in the city of Wuhan – the centre of the global coronavirus outbreak – has found 15 cats (14.7 percent) have been infected with the virus. The research by Chinese vets published in the biological sciences website bioRxiv, concluded the SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) could be detected in felines. On February 11, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) announced SARS-CoV-2 as the name of the new virus.
The World Health Organization then confirmed “COVID-19” as official name for the new disease.
The Wuhan research team said: “Previous studies suggested cat could be a potential susceptible animal of SARS-CoV-2.
“Here, we investigated the infection of SARS-CoV-2 in cats by detecting specific serum antibodies.
“A cohort of serum samples were collected from cats in Wuhan, including 102 sampled after COVID-19 outbreak, and 39 prior to the outbreak.
“15 of 102 (14.7 percent) cat sera collected after the outbreak were positive for the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 by indirect enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
“Our data demonstrates that SARS-CoV-2 has infected cat population in Wuhan during the outbreak.”
The World Health Organization has insisted there is no evidence that domestic animals such as cats or dogs can transmit the deadly disease to humans.
On March 19, in a statement the WHO said: “At present, there is no evidence that companion animals such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus.
“However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets.
“Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.”
The number of coronavirus cases continue to soar around the world with more than one million people testing positive and more than 64,000 deaths.
This afternoon the Department for Health the number of deaths in the UK has risen by 621 to 4,934.
The death toll has fallen by almost 100 following 708 deaths in the previous 24-hour period.
In Britain 195,524 people had been tested for coronavirus with 47,806 tests coming back positive for COVID-19.