London, Jul 1 (IANS): Are you Covid-positive? Stay away from your feline and pooch friends to avoid the risk of passing on the infection to them, suggests a study, which found that infection in pets is more common than thought.
The researchers from the Utrecht University in the Netherlands said that the most likely route of transmission is from human to pet, rather than the other way round.
"If you have Covid-19, you should avoid contact with your cat or dog, just as you would with other people," said Els Broens from the varsity.
"The main concern, however, is not the animals' health -- they had no or mild symptoms of Covid-19 -- but the potential risk that pets could act as a reservoir of the virus and reintroduce it into the human population.
"Fortunately, to date, no pet-to-human transmission has been reported. So, despite the rather high prevalence among pets from Covid-19 positive households in this study, it seems unlikely that pets play a role in the pandemic," Broens said.
For the study, researchers studied 156 dogs and 154 cats of people who had tested positive for Covid-19. Six cats and seven dogs (4.2 percent) had positive PCR tests and 31 cats and 23 dogs (17.4 percent) tested positive for antibodies.
With pets in 40/196 households (20.4 percent) having antibodies for the virus, the study reveals that Covid-19 is highly prevalent in pets of people who have had the disease.
A similar study led by Dorothee Bienzle, Professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada showed that cats that spent more time with their owners seemed to be at higher risk of infection than dogs. And cats that slept on their owner's bed were more likely to have Covid.
It is because cats' biology, including their viral receptors, the "locks" the virus unpicks to enter cells, make them more susceptible to Covid-19 than dogs. Cats are also more likely to sleep near their owner's face than dogs, increasing their exposure to any infection. Bienzle recommended keeping pets away from people with Covid and their pets.
"While the evidence that pets can pass the virus on to other pets is limited, it can't be excluded. Similarly, although pets have not been shown to pass the virus back to people, the possibility can't be completely ruled out," she noted.
The studies were presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) held online this year.