S. Korea reports first case of pet being infected with COVID-19

Posted on : 2021-01-25 16:54 KST Modified on : 2021-01-25 16:54 KST
There are no cases of pets transmitting coronavirus to people
Seoulites taking walks with their pets on Jan. 24. (Yonhap News)
Seoulites taking walks with their pets on Jan. 24. (Yonhap News)

South Korea has reported its first case of a pet testing positive for the coronavirus.

The government plans to have the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) and disease control authorities draw up guidelines for pets, but officials don’t think that people are likely to catch the coronavirus from their pets.

“The disease control authorities confirmed that a pet was infected with the coronavirus during an epidemiological study of a recent infection cluster,” Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a COVID-19 meeting of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters. The meeting was held at the Central Government Complex in Seoul on Jan. 24.

“Since this may worry and disturb many people who regard their pets as family members and spend a lot of time with them on a daily basis, we’ll be taking measures to alleviate any anxiety. The disease control authorities will be scientifically assessing the possibility of the coronavirus being transmitted between people and animals and will be transparent about publishing the results of that assessment. MAFRA will also be consulting with the disease control authorities to draw up guidelines for handling pets,” Chung went on to say.

The infected pet to which Chung referred is a cat that belongs to an individual infected at the International House of Prayer in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province. That facility is the epicenter of a cluster at which 108 people were infected, as of late on Jan. 23. The cat tested positive while being moved to a pet hotel after its owner was infected.

The cat was tested for the coronavirus in the same way that people are: swabs from deep in the nose and deep in the mouth were run through a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay.

“There are a few examples around the world of pets being apparently infected [with the coronavirus] by people, but as of yet, there haven’t been any examples of the opposite situation — of people being infected by pets,” the head of the social strategy team at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters said during a daily briefing on Jan. 24.

“The disease control authorities are currently collecting more data from overseas as they investigate the impact of examples of pet infections occurring in the country.”

By Seon Dam-eun, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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