Science

Which animals get Covid-19? A new database tracks cases in species around the world

Dogs, cats, and hamsters — oh my!

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When the virus runs wild in multiple species, it gets more opportunities to mutate.

Mutations give rise to new variants — ones that could potentially spill back over to humans — and can make it harder to treat and track the virus.

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For scientists and public health officials, it’s important to keep an eye on transmission from animals to humans and vice versa, which can be a challenging task.

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SARS-ANI VIS: University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna/Complexity Science Hub/Wildlife Conservation Society

It’s comprised of information collected by the International Society for Infectious Diseases and the World Organization for Animal Health, which have been collecting data on animal infections and outbreaks since 2020.

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The research team plans to update the database every week for at least a year, according to a report in Scientific Data where it was first announced.

Here are 5 key takeaways from the data so far:

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5. In the US, most infections were reported in deer.

406 confirmed infections and 33 total outbreaks (where one or more cases happen in a designated group) happened in white-tailed deer across the country.

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There were over 200 infections in domesticated cats and dogs in the US as well.

And zoo animals like tigers, lions, and gorillas each had several dozen confirmed cases.

4. Animals can pick up multiple variants

As the virus changed, its potential to infect species besides humans did not. The Alpha variant was detected in dogs and cats, and Delta in hamsters and tigers.

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3. Symptoms varied in animals, just like in humans

While most animals showed no symptoms during Covid, there were still many that experienced respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiac, and neurological effects.

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Some animals saw behavioral changes, such as at least one cat that experienced mild depression and a tiger that began acting abnormally.

And more tragically, sudden death due to respiratory or other complications did take place. Sudden deaths happened 7 times among mink.

2. Most animals survived Covid

The average case fatality rate (all reported Covid deaths in a species divided by total cases in the species) for Covid among all animals with recorded infections was 2.7 percent globally.

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However, the outcome of every Covid case wasn’t reported.

The researchers stress that the case fatality rate depends heavily on testing, and doesn’t reflect the overall mortality rate of Covid in an animal population.

1. The total number of cases is likely an undercount

The researchers note that the number of reported cases depends heavily on Covid surveillance infrastructure and the reporting strategies of each country.

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It’s easy for cases to fall through the cracks when they’re not reported or specific details are lacking.

However, the data we do have can help piece together a clearer picture of how widespread Covid is in the animal kingdom.

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