Corona is very dangerous to animals

Corona virus not only comes from the animal kingdom, it can also infect animals again. Researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna (Vetmed-Uni) and the Center for Complex Sciences (CSH) in Vienna have compiled international data for the first time to map epidemiological events in the animal kingdom. SARS-CoV-2 could become an unknown animal health risk, according to study leader Amelie Desvars-Larve.

The researchers wrote in Scientific Data that SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, may have been transmitted to humans in at least two cases from wild animals at the Huanan Market in Wuhan, China. The fact that it can be transmitted back to the animal kingdom from humans was first confirmed in February 2020: a dog in Hong Kong was infected with the virus by its owner.

Low death rate

However, the researchers reported that there is still no extensive data on Corona injuries in the animal world. The dataset called “SARS-ANI”, which includes cases from two reporting systems, aims to provide a clearer picture of the epidemiological situation in the animal kingdom, the variants and modes of infection that occur there, and the risk of spread. by animals.

The virus or antibodies have been detected in 26 species belonging to 14 animal families, according to Desvars LaRive, who researches Vetmed-Uni and CSH, APA. The aura variants found were similar to those of humans. Corona symptoms can be asymptomatic to severe and also resemble those of infected people. The case fatality rate (CFR), which indicates the number of animals of a species infected with the coronavirus that die, is low. On the other hand, the number of reported infections among animals will steadily increase, but a plateau is visible — possibly due to less testing in humans and animals, Desvars LaRive said.

No data from Austria

Geographically, there are differences in the distribution of the 704 reported cases of infection—infected animals in approximately the same household were combined into a single ‘event’. These accumulate above all in the United States, where 284 events were found. There are no data from Austria. However, the study does not show the actual distribution of animal infections. According to the researcher, a lot may go unnoticed or go unreported. For example, if a country lacks the resources to test humans, then animal testing will not be a priority either. “We only see the tip of the iceberg,” said Desfar LaRive.

Not only the geographic distribution of cases, but also the types of animals affected cannot be realistically mapped through data collection – the reason for this is also different testing strategies. For example, the mink was tested repeatedly, which is why the researchers counted 187 infection events and found a large number of variants. On the other hand, large cats are very susceptible to infection.

In 46 percent of cases, animals infected humans, and only 2.6 percent of other animals. In 51 percent of cases, the source of infection was not detected. Enter Desfars LaRive that injury to animals by humans is still rare. Only some animals – such as minks and cats – can transmit the virus to humans, and only some to other species or certain species. Others – for example dogs – are infected but do not spread the virus further. The reason for these differences has not yet been clarified, Desvars LaRive says.

A threat to animal welfare

What can be done against animal cases of corona? Control mechanisms such as quarantine, vaccination or animal killing will be an option, especially for pets. This is more difficult with wild animals. There is a danger here that wild animals will act as a host for the Corona virus for some time, new variants will appear and the virus will spread from this reservoir to humans and other animals.

This scenario may be dangerous not only from an epidemiological point of view, but also for the well-being of animals. A shift in public opinion could result in people not only turning their backs on preserving wildlife, but even killing potential coronavirus carriers. “We have to remember that SARS-CoV-2 represents not only a threat to public health, but also a threat of unknown magnitude to animal health and welfare,” said Desvar LaRive, arguing that the relationship between human and animal health and the environment is taken into account in pandemic measures.

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