Aug 07, 2022 Health

How many animals have had COVID-19? New tracker offers some clues

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been several reports of coronavirus infections among cats, dogs and other animals. But until now, there was limited data on how widespread COVID-19 is in the animal kingdom.

A new global database may help provide some clues.

So far, there have been 704 confirmed cases in animals, in 27 different species from 39 countries, according to the first dashboard of its kind from a team of Austrian researchers who worked with the Wildlife Conservation society that compiles the tally of COVID cases among critters.

Among the 582 outbreaks tracked in the animal world, the disease fatality rate so far has been close to 3%, with most symptoms among animals presenting as respiratory, gastrointestinal or behavioral issues, according to the data.

While the researchers say it is impossible to know the true impact of the coronavirus in the wild, the documented cases included in the dashboard were largely confirmed with laboratory PCR tests and provide a strong foundation to build on.

“The dashboard intends to support public education about the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission between humans and animals and raise public awareness about possible wildlife conservation issues posed by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic,” said Amélie Desvars-Larrive, professor at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna and leader of the research team, in the accompanying study the initial data dump.

Reported SARS-CoV-2 variants identified in animals from a new open access data dashboard on global cases.

Reported SARS-CoV-2 variants identified in animals from a new open access data dashboard on global cases.

Complexity Science Hub, Vienna

Scientists believe it is critical to know which animals are getting infected and what is happening to them because it could help track virus mutations and cases of animal-to-human transmission, which are still considered rare.

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