South Korea launches Covid test for pets

Pet cats and dogs in the capital city of South Korea will be tested for Covid-19 if they show symptoms, the Seoul metropolitan government has said.

It comes a few weeks after the country reported its first Covid-19 case in an animal – a kitten.

Only pets which show symptoms like fever or breathing difficulties after being exposed to human carriers of the virus will be tested.

The pet must quarantine at home if it tests positive for the virus.

It is not necessary for the pet to be sent into an isolation facility as there is no evidence Covid-19 can be spread between humans and pets, said Park Yoo-mi, a disease control official at a virtual press briefing, according to a Yonhap report.

But if the pet’s owners are hospitalised with Covid-19, or are too ill or too old to take care of it, the pet will be taken into quarantine at a city-run facility.

In South Korea, human patients with Covid-19 are generally put in quarantine facilities if they do not need hospital treatment.

Ms Park reminded residents to keep their pets “at least two metres away from people and other pets when walking them”.

Earlier last month, a kitten that was found at a religious facility in the southeastern city of Jinju was found to be infected, according to Yonhap news.

Health authorities suspect that a mother and daughter, who were staying at the facility, had passed the virus on to the kitten. Both have tested positive for Covid-19.

Experts had previously said it was highly unlikely that a dog or cat could transmit the virus to people, though research has shown that cats may be able to carry the virus and pass it on to other cats.

Globally, several pets have tested positive for the virus – though such cases are generally quite rare.

Last month, two gorillas in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park contracted Covid-19 from a human handler – the first known case of infections in apes.

It has also been found in a number of other wild animals, including lions and tigers in the Bronx Zoo in New York and lions at Barcelona Zoo in Spain.

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