Corona infection between animals and humans – SWR Knowledge

Dogs, cats, or hamsters can also be infected with coronaviruses. What pet owners should know about it.














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In Hong Kong, 2,000 hamsters will be killed due to the Corona outbreak in a pet store. The local authorities discovered that some hamsters were infected with the Corona virus. Could this also be a threat to German pet owners? What role do animals, especially wild animals, play in the Corona pandemic?

This question has been at stake since the pandemic began, when a wildlife market in the Chinese city of Wuhan was identified as a possible starting point. It is known that bats and minks, as well as dogs and cats, can contract the Covid-19 virus and also transmit it to humans.

Therefore, COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease, an infectious disease that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Does this mean that we also have to worry about potential infection when handling pets like dogs and cats?



In principle, coronaviruses can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. However, experts doubt that this currently has a significant impact on the infection process.


imago pictures



imago photos / ITAR-TASS


Animals can become reservoirs of coronaviruses

Corona injuries in humans are currently increasing all over the world. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether this is the same for animals. Prof Fabian Leanderts, a biologist, veterinarian and zoonosis expert, says the risk of infection in animals is also increasing. This, in turn, is dangerous in many ways.

On the other hand, there are animal species that can get sick and die from corona. On the other hand, these animals can become a new reservoir for the virus. There it can change and then be transmitted back to humans.

Hence, we may have variables that we would prefer not to have among us.

The virus develops differently in each host. Depending on the animal species, there is a high potential for new and more dangerous mutations to occur during human-animal transmission. The immune systems of humans and animals work differently and thus put different pressures on the virus. According to Fabian Leenderts, you should keep an eye on it.



Animals can also be infected with coronaviruses.  (Photo: Imago Images, Imago Images/Cavan Images)

Animals can also be infected with coronaviruses.


imago pictures



Images by imago / images by Cavan


What animals are infected with the Corona virus?

The range of animals infected with SARS-CoV2 is very large and even expanded. For example, the original variants that circulated among us humans cannot infect mice. According to Leendertz, that’s different now. The virus has changed so that it can infect mice as well, for example.

A specific type of deer infected with the coronavirus is known in the United States. In zoos, there are cases in cats, like tigers. Primates have also been infected, and there have been hippos infections at the Antwerp Zoo. The exact type of virus that animals get is not known. But, according to Fabian Leanderts, experiments are currently being carried out and data are being collected.



Hippos can also be infected with coronaviruses.  Therefore, strict hygiene regulations also apply in zoos.  (Photo: Imago Images, Imago Images / Revierfoto)

Hippos can also be infected with coronaviruses. Therefore, strict hygiene regulations also apply in zoos.


imago pictures



Images by imago / Revierfoto


In fact, it is unusual for pathogens to be transmitted between humans and animals. It always depends a lot on which animal and which pathogen we’re talking about. For example, according to Fabian Leanderts, cold pathogens easily pass back and forth between great apes such as chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and humans. However, this does not happen in dogs and humans.

This wide range of the host is causing us trouble.

Strict rules in zoo and wildlife research

Denmark killed millions of mink after infection in fur farms in 2020, that is, at the beginning of the epidemic. Zoos and zoos have set very strict rules. Guards follow hygiene measures, and vaccinations are encouraged.



Siberian tiger in Saint Petersburg Zoo (Russia).

Corona viruses can infect humans as well as some animals. Tigers in some zoos have also been infected with the Corona virus.


imago pictures



Images by IMAGO / ITAR-TASS Alexander Demianchuk


According to Leendertz, you do what you can, basically like any home for seniors. Certainly, free-living wild animals are much less likely to come into close contact with us humans. But there is cause for concern that feral cats, for example, can contract the virus and can pass it on to nature.

Fabian Leenderts also calls for conservation measures in wildlife research to be adjusted accordingly. For example, wearing masks can not only reduce the risk of infection by bat researchers, but also, conversely, reduce the risk of bats infecting humans.

There is absolutely no guarantee, but the risks are minimized where possible.



Nattier's bat (Photo: Imago Images, Imago/blickwinkel)

In bat research, too, infection must be prevented in both directions.


imago pictures



imago / perspective


Handling pets in case of corona infection

Dogs and cats can also contract the coronavirus when cuddling with their master or lover. According to Fabian Leanderts, there is usually no immediate danger to the animal. Epidemiologically, pets do not appear to play a major role in infecting humans in this way. However, Leenderts calls for this to be watched. According to Leendertz, we have a moving target.

This virus always comes up with something new. In that regard, I won’t be sure that it will always remain that way.

Fabian Leanderts advises to keep your eyes open and see the animal’s performance. If the pet shows any symptoms, it should be tested immediately.

In the event of an infection, for example, you should not necessarily walk dogs into a dog park where other dogs are.



If pets have contracted the coronavirus, they should be tested if they show symptoms.  (Photo: Imago Pictures, Imago Pictures/Photoshop)

If pets have contracted coronavirus, they should be tested if they show symptoms.


imago pictures



imago photos / photography shop


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