Coronavirus: 2 cats in New York state test positive, federal officials confirm

Two pet cats in New York state have tested positive for coronavirus, federal officials announced Wednesday. It marks the first confirmed cases of companion animals in the United States.

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The announcement was made in a joint statement by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories. The agencies said the felines tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 -- the virus that causes COVID-19.

The cats live in two different areas of New York state, according to the news release. Officials said both cats had mild respiratory illnesses and were expected to recover.

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According to officials, the first cat was tested by a veterinarian after the feline showed mild respiratory signs. No people in the household were confirmed to be ill with COVID-19, the news release said. Officials speculated the virus could have been transmitted to the cat through a mildly ill or asymptomatic household member, or through contact with an infected person outside its home.

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The owner of the second cat test positive for COVID-19 before the feline showed symptoms, the release said. Another cat in the household showed no signs of illness, officials said.

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“We don’t want people to panic. We don’t want people to be afraid of pets” or to rush to test them en masse, Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC official who works on human-animal health connections, told WNBC. “There’s no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people.”

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Some larger cats have already tested positive for coronavirus. Earlier this month, a tiger tested positive at the Bronx Zoo in New York City. Nadia, a 4-year-old Malayan tiger, became ill March 27, 11 days after the zoo was closed because of the pandemic.

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