South Korea: Seoul Begins Testing Pet Cats and Dogs for Coronavirus

A medical staff member wearing protective gear takes a swab from a visitor to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a temporary testing station outside the City Hall in Seoul on December 28, 2020. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images

Government health officials in Seoul began testing pet cats and dogs for the Chinese coronavirus this week after South Korea documented its first human case of the virus involving a pet kitten in recent weeks.

“The Seoul metropolitan government will test pet cats and dogs for COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] if they show symptoms,” Park Yoo-mi, a Seoul disease control official said at a virtual press conference Monday.

“Only cats and dogs exhibiting symptoms, such as fever, coughing, breathing difficulties and increased secretion from the eyes or nose, will be subject to the test,” Park said, adding that most pets have not shown symptoms of the virus.

A team of health workers, including a veterinarian, will set up a makeshift site near the pet owner’s home to administer the test.

“If the pet tests positive, it will be required to quarantine at home for 14 days without being sent to an isolation facility,” Park said.

“If the pet’s owners are unable to take care of it because they are hospitalized with COVID-19 [coronavirus], have an underlying disease, or [are] at an advanced age, the animal will be taken for isolation at a city-run facility in western Seoul,” she added.

“Please keep your dogs at least 2 meters away from people and other pets when walking them, and strictly follow antivirus measures, such as wearing masks and washing hands,” the disease control official advised.

A government health office in Jinju, a city in South Gyeongsang province, diagnosed the first known case of the Chinese coronavirus in an animal in South Korea on January 24. The three-month-old kitten recovered from the virus by February 4 and was released from quarantine symptom-free. The kitten was one of three cats being cared for by a woman and her daughter, both of whom had recently contracted coronavirus at a “religious facility” in Jinju.

“More than 100 people were confirmed to have contracted the virus after visiting the facility last month,” the Seoul-government funded TBS news broadcaster reported on February 4.

“The mother and daughter are also said to have made full recoveries,” TBS added.

“A small number of pet cats and dogs have been reported to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 [coronavirus] in several countries, including the United States. … Most of these pets became sick after contact with people with COVID-19 [coronavirus],” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in January.

There is currently no evidence that the Chinese coronavirus can be transmitted from cats to people, according to Cornell University’s Feline Health Center, “so there is no need for owners to do anything that would endanger the welfare of their cats (i.e. relinquish to a shelter or abandon them) even if a cat is diagnosed with COVID-19 [coronavirus].”

There has been no known case of a dog contracting coronavirus in South Korea so far.


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