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First animals to contract U.K variant of COVID-19 found in Brazos County

Posted at 7:19 PM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 20:19:32-04

For the first time worldwide, the U.K variant of COVID-19 has been detected in two pets located in Brazos County.

Researchers at Texas A&M made the discovery as part of an ongoing research project led by the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and funded by the CDC.

”Throughout our study, which again started last summer, we found that it’s not uncommon for pets that live with infected owners, for those pets to themselves to become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Sarah Hamer, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Texas A&M.

On February 12, two days after the homeowner was diagnosed with COVID-19, the two pets, a senior black-lab mix dog and a senior domestic shorthair cat, were tested for COVID-19.

”This is the first evidence in fact that this U.K variant can infect animals in a natural setting like this, and we will be really eager to track these infected animals over time,” Hamer added.

At the time of the test, the animals showed no signs of illness.

They were then retested on March 11. At that time, the owner told researchers that the dog and cat had been sneezing over the past weeks.

On March 12, results came back that the pets had contracted the B.1.1.7, or UK, variant of COVID-19.

Many pet owners may be concerned regarding the topic of transmission. According to Hamer, it seems less likely that your pet can pass the virus onto another human.

“I think a lot of the evidence coming from our study and other studies like it suggest that the human infection came first and then the pet infection came next,” she said.

As this pet study continues, Hamer and her team will continue to gain new knowledge and share that with counterparts.

“What this means we’re still learning. We know that the U.K variant is becoming more and more common in human populations, so we expect that there might be some spill over into the animal population, especially animals that we’re really close with,” Hamer explained.

Hamer says if petowners do find themselves with COVID-19, they should practice the same COVID-19 mitigation efforts with their pets as they would with people.

Researchers will continue to track tested animals for several months to study things such as how long symptoms lasted, if antibodies are developed and how transmissible the virus is from one animal to another.

“Of all of the infected pets in our study, less than a quarter have had symptoms of disease, and all of those pets, to our knowledge, have recovered on their own without the need of any special veterinary care,” said Hamer.

Since the start of the study, the team has sampled 450 animals in Brazos County . Only 60 have come back confirmed with a variant of COVID-19.

The first time the B.1.1.7 variant was found in humans was back in December 2020. Now more than 4,000 cases have been reported by the CDC.