Texas A&M research project identifies first COVID-19 positive cats in Texas

Texas A&M
Texas A&M(KBTX)
Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 1:44 PM CDT
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - Texas A&M researchers from the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS) have identified two cats in Brazos County that have tested positive for COVID-19. The team is working to understand how pets living in ‘high-risk’ households may be impacted by COVID-19 by sampling pets, dos and cats, whose owners have tested positive.

CVMBS associate professor of epidemiology Dr. Sarah Hamer is leading the team.

“We’re one of a few veterinary research groups across the country that are conducting similar investigations to provide an enhanced understanding about SARS-CoV-2 infections in pets—asking questions such as are pets being exposed? Becoming infected? Can they spread the virus to humans or other animals? Do they get sick?” said Hamer in a statement. “It’s really exciting that research teams are beginning to respond to the crisis in this way.”

Hamer and the researchers work in conjunction with the Brazos County Health Department, which shares information about the project to those who test positive for pet-enrollment purposes. The team has sampled several dozen households across the county so far.

“We have a pretty rigorous testing approach here at A&M. After RNA extraction, the samples have to test positive in two different assays with our lab team before being sent to NVSL,” Hamer said. “All of our field and lab work has been through multiple approval processes with appropriate organizations in looking out for the animal’s and also humans’ best interest.”

Hamer notes that the study is not designed to test if pets become infected from owners or owners from pets, but it does show that pets can become infected in high-risk househoulds. Hamer also says that the veterinary and scientific consensus still maintains that people shouldn’t be afraid if their animals test positive, and there is no indication that infected pets should be surrendered.

“Our goal is to learn more about the different roles that pets may play in the transmission cycle of SARS-CoV-2 and to understand the timing of animal infections in relation to human infections,” Hamer said. “We hope that the information will be used to enhance surveillance programs and, ultimately, help protect both human and animal health.”

To learn more about the project, visit tx.ag/BCSCovidResearch.

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