CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WRAL/CNN) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low, but the agency says it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.
That was the case for a family in North Carolina, whose pug was diagnosed with the virus.
In March, all members of Heather McLean’s family of four except her daughter tested positive for COVID-19.
“We’ve all recovered. We’ve felt great for the last two weeks. Everything seems very back to normal,” McLean told WRAL.
On April 1, the family joined a new study conducted by Duke University.
“They all came out to our house and did blood samples. For the humans, they swabbed our noses as well as our mouths, and then for the animals, they did oral swabs for both dogs and the cat.”
To her surprise, McLean says, one of her pets tested positive for the virus.
The study showed Winston, the family’s fun-loving pug, contracted the coronavirus.
Researchers say that to their knowledge, this is the first instance in which the coronavirus has been detected in a dog.
McLean noticed something was off.
His symptoms were mild. Pugs are a little unusual in that they cough and sneeze in a very strange way. So it almost seems like he was very gaggy, and there was one day when he didn’t want to eat his breakfast, and if you know pugs you know they love to eat, so that seemed very unusual,” she said.
The family says Winston was only sick for a few days.
“Hopefully, we’ll learn more through the research study, and I think because there’s not a lot of studies and sampling pets, we just don’t know yet. My advice is just not to get too worried about it,” she said.
McLean is a pediatrician at Duke, and her husband works in the emergency room at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Hospital.
They believe it’s possible they contracted coronavirus at work.
But the dog probably caught it from them. The pug sleeps with McLean every night and likes to lick their plates.
The CDC says treat pets as you would other human family members. Do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household.
If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.
Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by the virus that causes COVID-19 and the role animals may play in the spread.