Kaiser Health News, by Joel Alexia
Wednesday, November 04, 2020 (Kaiser News) – As cases of COVID-19 rise in the US, a Texas veterinarian is quietly tracking the spread of the disease – not in people, but in their pets.
Since June, Dr. at Texas A&M University. Sarah Hammer and her team have tested hundreds of animals from area homes where humans contracted COVID-19. They have swallowed dogs and cats, sure, but pet hamsters and guinea pigs, too, look for signs of infection. “We are all open to this,” said Hammer, a professor of epidemiology.
One pet that tested positive, Phoenix, was a 7-year-old part-Siamese cat owned by Caitlin Romoser, who works in a university lab. The 23-year-old Romoser was confirmed to have COVID-19 twice, once in March and again in September. The second time she was very ill, she said, and Phoenix was her constant companion.
“If I knew that animals were just getting everywhere, I tried to distance myself from them, but they themselves wouldn’t keep distance from me,” Romoser said. “He sleeps with me in my bed. There was not a complete social distinction. “
Across the country, veterinarians and other researchers are scouring the animal kingdom for signs of the virus that causes COVID-19. According to federal records, at least 2,000 animals have been tested in the US for the epidemic. Cats and dogs exposed to sick owners represent the majority of tested animals and 80% of positive cases were found.
But scientists have conducted a detailed investigation of other animals that may be at risk. Researchers from California to Florida have tested species ranging from cultivated mink and zoo cats to unexplored critters such as dolphins, armadillos and antiers.
The US Department of Agriculture confirms more than a dozen animals, confirming more than a dozen cases. But that list is a large set of real transitions. For example, in Utah and Wisconsin, more than 14,000 minks died in recent weeks, spread by humans early in COVID infections.