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8 Asiatic Lions Test Positive in Hyderabad Zoo: Some Facts about Covid in Animals for Pet Lovers

Eight Asiatic lions at the Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad tested positive for Covid-19, the first such case reported in India, the government said on Tuesday. The animals’ oropharyngeal swab samples were collected and sent to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) for testing and genome sequencing. RT-PCR tests confirmed the animals had contracted Covid-19 and the infection was not caused by any variant of concern. It is believed the disease was transmitted through humans.

“Based on experience with zoo animals elsewhere in the world that have experienced SARS-COV2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) positive last year, there is no factual evidence that animals can transmit the disease to humans any further,” the government said in a statement. The government also said that the animals were responding to treatment, and cautioned against fear-mongering.

Covid-19 among Animals

Earlier in December, Snow leopards at the Louisville Zoo and in April, tigers and lions at the New York City’s Bronx Zoo reported similar cases of Covid-19 among animals. Even domestic cats, dogs and mink have tested positive. This, however, is the first such case in India.

“Domestic cats and mink can transmit it to other animals. Mink are the only animals so far known to get severely ill and are the only animals known to transmit the virus back to humans,” a New York Times report said. “So far there are no documented cases of dogs or cats passing the virus to humans,” it added.

For Pet Owners

America’s Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) has an exhaustive document on Sars-Cov-2 among pets, and dos and don’ts as per a report by News 18.

According to that resource — updated on March 30, 2021 — a small number of “pets worldwide, including cats and dogs” have been infected, mostly after “close contact with people with COVID-19”. “Based on the information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low,” it said. There is no evidence that the virus can spread to people from the skin, fur, or hair of pets, it added.

Infected pets might get sick or they might not have any symptoms, according to the CDC. “Of the pets that have gotten sick, most only had mild illness and fully recovered. Serious illness in pets appears to be extremely rare.”

Some Dos and Don’ts for Pet Owners

Distancing should be maintained, as it is followed in case of infections among humans, but masks for pets is a strict no, according to CDC. Here are more suggestions from CDC:

• Because there is a risk that people with Covid-19 could spread the virus to animals, pet owners should limit their pet’s interaction with people outside their household.

• Keep cats indoors when possible and walk dogs on a leash at least 6 feet away from others to protect them from interacting with people outside.

• Avoid public places where large numbers of people gather.

• Do not put a mask on pets. Masks could harm your pet.

• Do not wipe or bathe your pet with chemical disinfectants, alcohol etc.

• If you are sick with Covid-19, avoid contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would with people. When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.

If Your Pet Falls Ill

Talk with your veterinarian regularly, CDC advises. “Call before you take your pet to the veterinary clinic. Be sure to alert your veterinarian if your pet has trouble breathing, or if you think it is an emergency,” it said. Also,

• Have the pet stay in a designated “sick room” if possible, or otherwise be separated from people and other pets. “This is the same way a person with COVID-19 would separate from others in their household.”

• Avoid contact with the pet as much as possible, including, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.

• Wear gloves when cleaning up after your pet. Always wash your hands with soap and water immediately after cleaning up after your pet. There is no evidence to suggest that waste from infected pets needs any additional disinfection.

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