Spain records first case of cat contracting coronavirus

Spain has confirmed its first case of a cat contracting Covid-19 in news that will spark alarm among cat owners everywhere.

Spain records first case of cat contracting coronavirus
Photo by Ricardo Avelar on Unsplash

Post-mortem testing on Negrito, a four-year-old cat that was euthanized after being taken to the vet suffering from severe heart disease, revealed that the feline was a victim of the coronavirus.

La Vanguardia newspaper reported that the owner of the cat had died from the virus and that several other people in the household had also been taken ill.

The cat suffered from a pre-existing medical condition quite common in felines known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

He was admitted to an emergency animal hospital with breathing difficulties, a high temperature of 38.2C and heart failure where it was determined that he should be euthanized.

An autopsy performed by Barcelona’s Centre for Research into Animal Health (IRTA-CReSA) detected SARS-CoV-2 virus from samples taken from the cat’s nose and digestive tract.

“The viral load was low and none of the lesions he presented were compatible with the infection caused by the virus. The cat was already suffering from cardiomyopathy and later became infected with SARS-CoV-2, ”said Joaquim Segales, a researcher at the CReSA and professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.  

 “He is a collateral victim of the disease in humans,” he added.

It is not the first time a cat is known to have contracted the coronavirus from humans. So far five other pet cats around the world have reportedly tested positive  as well as a group of eight lions and tigers at New York’s Bronx Zoo.

But in all other cases the animals have shown only mild symptoms of respiratory disease and have recovered without problems.

Compared to the nearly four million confirmed cases of people infected with coronavirus worldwide infected, the number of animals with the virus is very small and Natàlia Majó, director of CReSA-IRTA urged pet owners not to be too worried. 

“The likelihood of a person infecting a cat is extremely low,” she told La Vanguardia.

Scientists say it is extremely unlikely that cats or dogs could pass the virus onto humans but the general advice is to avoid contact with pets from outside your own household and to wash your hands if you do so. 

The RSPCA advises people that it is best avoid kissing your pet, just in case.


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Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.