Domestic Pets May Have To Be Vaccinated Against Covid-19, Scientists Say.
CORONAVIRUS can infect a wide range of species, including cats, dogs, mink and other domesticated animals, experts from universities have said, also claiming transmission to humans ‘poses a real risk.’
In an editorial for the journal Virulence, the UEA and University of Minnesota team wrote that continued evolution of the virus in animals followed by transmission to humans “poses a significant long-term risk to public health.”
“It is not unthinkable that vaccination of some domesticated animal species might be necessary to curb the spread of the infection,” they said.
Last year, Denmark’s government culled millions of mink after it emerged that hundreds of Covid-19 cases in the country were linked with coronavirus variants associated with farmed mink. One of the editorial’s authors, Cock van Oosterhout, professor of evolutionary genetics at UEA, said dogs and cats can contract coronavirus but that there are no known cases in which there has been spillback to humans as yet.
“It makes sense to develop vaccines for pets, for domestic animals, just as a precaution to reduce this risk,” he said. What we need to be as a human society, we really need to be prepared for any eventuality when it comes to Covid. I think the best way to do this is to indeed consider the development of vaccines for animals as well. Interestingly the Russians have already started to develop a vaccine for pets, which there’s very little information about.”
Kevin Tyler, editor-in-chief of Virulence, said: “Cats are asymptomatic but they are infected by it and they can infect humans with it.”
“The risk is that, as long as there are these reservoirs, that it starts to pass as it did in the mink from animal to animal and then starts to evolve animal-specific strains, but then they spill back into the human population and you end up essentially with a new virus which is related which causes the whole thing all over again,” he added.
He said that while mink were culled in Denmark, “if you were thinking about domestic animals, companion animals, then you might think about whether you could vaccinate to stop that from happening”. He added: “It’s not an obvious risk yet.”
The scientists urged governments to consider the continued use of strict control measures such as masks and social distancing, saying it is the only way to reduce the evolution and spread of new Covid-19 variants.
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