At least 89 pets in South Korea tested positive for the coronavirus during the first eight months of this year, after likely contact with humans who were infected, the country’s Agriculture Ministry said Wednesday.
The count is the first national tally of pets that tested positive and represents an effort to better understand how the coronavirus travels between pets and humans in South Korea. Officials began recording case tallies for pets in homes with confirmed human cases after a kitten living in a religious facility in the southeastern part of the country tested positive for the virus earlier this year, officials said.
So far, none of the infected pets have died, nor have health officials found evidence suggesting the 89 dogs and cats transmitted the coronavirus back to humans, Agriculture Ministry officials said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website that the risk of animals transmitting the virus to humans is low.
Of the 89 pets, about 90 percent were living in the South Korean capital, Seoul, where about one-third of the country’s overall coronavirus infections among people have occurred.
The South Korean Health Ministry advises confirmed coronavirus patients to send their pets to family or friends who have not tested positive. Pets that have tested positive are subject to a two-week quarantine.
Transmissions of the coronavirus between animals and humans have been documented since the pandemic began last year. American minks, gorillas and macaques have shown they are highly susceptible to the virus and able to transmit the virus to humans, according to the World Organization for Animal Health, an intergovernmental body.
But animals that are more commonly found in or around human dwellings such as dogs, domestic cats, hamsters, cattle, pigs and rabbits have not yet shown evidence that they can transmit the coronavirus to humans, according to the organization.
The organization also said that although the coronavirus probably came from an animal source (“likely a bat”), the exact origin and route that the virus took before infecting humans remain unidentified. “The pandemic is driven by human-to-human transmission,” it added.
In the United States, eight tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo that tested positive in April 2020 are considered the first U.S. animals to have been infected with the coronavirus“