Some coronaviruses that infect animals can sometimes be spread to humans and then spread between people, but this is rare. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) are examples of diseases caused by coronaviruses that originated in animals and spread to people. This is what is suspected to have happened with the virus that caused the current outbreak of COVID-19. However, we do not know the exact source of this virus. Public health officials and partners are working hard to identify the source of COVID-19. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person. The coronavirus most similar to the virus causing COVID-19 is the one that causes SARS.
The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking. Recent studies show that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.
CDC is aware of a small number of pets, including dogs and cats to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. Only a few of the animals reported to be positive showed signs of illness.
The first case in the United States of an animal testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 was a tiger with a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City. Samples from this tiger were collected and tested after several lions and tigers at the zoo showed signs of respiratory illness. Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. This investigation is ongoing.
We are still learning about this virus, but we know that it originally came from an animal source and is primarily spreading from person-to-person, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations. CDC is working with human and animal health partners to monitor this situation and will continue to provide updates as information becomes available. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
Source: The Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)