The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced last week it would offer free coronavirus tests to symptomatic dogs and cats, shortly after a kitten at a religious facility in the southeast of the country was found to have contracted the virus.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a few pets have been infected with the virus that causes covid-19, mostly after the animals were in close contact with infected humans.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, scattered reports of animals contracting the disease have raised fears that pets or farmed animals such as mink could become a reservoir for the disease, prompting widespread culling in infected mink farms.
The CDC, however, says that “based on the limited available information, the risk of animals spreading the COVID-19 virus to people is considered low.” Most animals who have contracted the virus experienced mild illness and fully recovered.
“There is no evidence that viruses can spread to people or other animals from a pet’s skin, fur or hair,” the CDC says.
Seoul’s government said it would provide tests only to animals that showed symptoms, such as fever or breathing difficulties, after coming into contact with infected humans.
The kitten found positive last month was placed in isolation at a nearby animal shelter but did not show any symptoms and so after 14 days was released, local health authorities said.
In an online briefing last week, disease control official Park Yoo-mi reminded people to keep their pets “at least two meters away from people and other animals when walking them.”
Research has shown that cats can spread the disease to other cats in a laboratory setting.
Min Joo Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.