DEAR READERS: My concern that the coronavirus could be present in the feces of infected humans after they test negative for the virus in respiratory samples has been recently confirmed in the gastrointestinal journal Gut (“COVID-19 and the gastrointestinal tract: more than meets the eye,” Siew C. Ng and Herbert Tilg, September 2020).
I based this concern on the fact that it is well known that feline coronavirus can be present in cats’ feces, but now that cats can get a different coronavirus infection from humans with COVID-19, my next concern is that such cats could also have the SARS-CoV-2 virus in their feces.
On this topic, I contacted professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. He wrote, “We have performed additional cat experiments and found one of six animals shed SARS-CoV-2 in its feces. So, in our hands, SARS-CoV-2 can be present in feces, but it is not a common occurrence.”
But in a larger population, this could be problematic if the amount of viral shedding is sufficient to cause infection. Read on for more about cats and SARS-CoV-2.
EVIDENCE CORONAVIRUS CAN SPREAD TO PETS
Eight cats whose owners had a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection had antibodies for the virus in their blood, and the owners reported that all eight had shown signs of respiratory or other illness, researchers reported at a recent conference on the coronavirus. Two of 10 dogs whose owners had confirmed infections also had coronavirus antibodies in their blood, and one had shown signs of a respiratory illness.
“These preliminary results suggest that a substantial proportion of pets in households of persons with COVID-19 become infected,” said study co-author Dorothee Bienzle, a professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Guelph in Ontario.
These findings call for heightened vigilance when handling fecal waste, both human and feline -- especially in homes where one or more people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and who have one or more cats. As a public health safety precaution, cats from quarantined homes and in infected communities should not be allowed to roam free, since they could become potential reservoirs for cross-infection to other cats and susceptible wildlife -- and also a source of reverse-infection to humans.
DEAR DR. FOX: I don’t read your columns regularly, but did happen to see a recent one that explained your way of dealing with the world for readers who don’t like your politics. I thought it was really well-written, clear and consistent. Sadly, we seem to have developed a very toxic individualistic culture, and many don’t care about the common good.
I retired as a psychotherapist last year, and know that many do not have the ability to think abstractly. Also, many are fearful that there are not enough resources to go around, so they have to look out for themselves and cannot see how improving the common good helps us all. But I also know that when an alternative view is presented in a nonthreatening way, it does cause some to consider alternatives. I’m hoping your clear message will cause a few of the readers who object to your “politics” to consider other ways of thinking. -- B.C., Mantoloking, New Jersey
DEAR B.C.: I appreciate your perspective as a psychotherapist -- a profession in which you must be sensitive in confronting your clients to examine the truths they live by, especially as they relate to their own suffering and that of others. I see epigenetically impaired cognitive processing as a serious social and cultural issue, which educators and therapists alike need to address with the same compassion and understanding as any good cat “keeper” or dog “owner”!
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