Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause cold-like illnesses in people, while others cause illness in certain types of animals, such as cattle, camels, and bats. Some coronaviruses, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, infect only animals and do not infect people.
Risk of animals spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to people
Some coronaviruses that infect animals can be spread to people and then spread between people, but this is rare. This is what happened with SARS-CoV-2, which likely originated in bats. The first reported infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person.
SARS-CoV-2 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking. At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. More studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
Risk of people spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to animals
The first US case of an animal testing positive for COVID-19 was a tiger at a New York zoo.
We are still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations, especially after close contact with a person with COVID-19.
For information on how to protect pets from possible infection with SARS-CoV-2, see If You Have Pets.
Animals that can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19
We know that cats, dogs, and some other mammals can be infected with SARS-CoV-2, but we don’t yet know all of the animals that can get infected. There have been reports of animals being infected with the virus worldwide.
- A small number of pet cats and dogs have been reported to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 in several countries, including the United States. Most of these pets became sick after contact with people with COVID-19.
- Large cats in captivity have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Several lions and tigers in a New York zooexternal icon, a puma in South Africa, tigers in a Tennessee zoopdf iconexternal icon, and snow leopards at a Kentucky zoo tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after showing signs of respiratory illness. . It is suspected that these large cats became sick after being exposed to zoo employees with COVID-19.
Mink and SARS-CoV-2
- SARS-CoV-2 has been reported in mink on farms in multiple countriesexternal icon, including the United States.
- In the United States, respiratory disease and increases in mink deaths have been seen on most affected mink farms. However, mink that appear healthy have also been confirmed to have SARS-CoV-2 infection in several countries.
- Infected workers likely introduced SARS-CoV-2 to mink on the farms, and the virus then began to spread among the mink. Once the virus is introduced on a farm, spread can occur between mink as well as from mink to other animals on the farm (dogs, cats).
- Currently, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to people. However, reports from infected mink farms in the Netherlands and Denmark suggest that in these environments there is the possibility for spread of SARS-CoV-2 from mink to people.
- Although for most people in the United States the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection from animals is low, there is a higher risk for people working on mink farms.
- Worker safety is critical to protect people and animals on mink farms. Mink farm workers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should avoid contact with animals, including mink, and should follow available guidance for farmed mink and other mustelids to avoid introducing SARS-CoV-2 to mink on farms.
- Guidance developed collaboratively by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), CDC, and state animal and public health partners using a One Health approach is available to protect worker and animal health:
- CDC deployed One Health teams to multiple states to support state and local departments of health and agriculture, federal partners, and others in conducting on-farm investigations into people and multiple animal species with SARS-CoV-2 infection. As part of these investigations, the teams collected samples from animals on the farms and from people working on mink farms and in surrounding communities. CDC and USDA are collaborating to test and analyze these samples to better understand how SARS-CoV-2 can spread among mink, other animals, and people, as well as genetic variations of the virus. These investigations are ongoing and more information will be shared as it becomes available.
- CDC is aware of reports of a new strain of SARS-CoV-2 virus in mink in Denmark that is also present in the local human population. Based on reports from Denmark, it appears that mink became infected after exposure to people infected with the virus, and the virus then mutated and spread from mink back to humans. This new strain, called “Cluster 5,” has not been seen before and is made up of five mutations.
- Of mink and human samples tested so far in the United States, none have contained all the mutations that make up the Cluster 5 strain.
- Currently in the United States, there is no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 spreading from mink to people, but investigations are ongoing. More information will be shared when it becomes available.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains a listexternal iconexternal icon of all animals and mink farms in the United States with SARS-CoV-2 infections confirmed by their National Veterinary Services Laboratories.
Research on animals and COVID-19
Many studies have been done to learn more about how this virus can affect different animals.
- Recent experimental research shows that cats, dogs, ferrets, fruit bats, hamsters, and tree shrews can become infected with the virus. Cats, ferrets, fruit bats, and hamsters can also spread the infection to other animals of the same species in laboratory settings.
- Data from studies suggest that dogs can get infected but might not spread the virus to other dogs as easily as cats and ferrets can spread the virus to other animals of the same species.
- A number of studies have investigated non-human primates as models for human infection. Rhesus macaques, cynomolgus macaques, grivets, and common marmosets can become infected with SARS-CoV-2 and become sick in a laboratory setting.
- Laboratory mice, pigs, chickens, and ducks do not seem to become infected or spread the infection based on results from studies.
These findings were based on a small number of animals, and do not show whether animals can spread infection to people. More studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
CDC, USDA, state public health and animal health officials, and academic partners are working in some states to conduct active surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in pets, including cats, dogs, and other small mammals, that had contact with a person with COVID-19. These animals are being tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection and also tested to see whether the pet develops antibodies to this virus. This work is being done to help us better understand how common SARS-CoV-2 infection might be in pets as well as the possible role of pets in the spread of this virus.