A World Health Organization (WHO) scientist said COVID-19 comes from bats and can spread among cats, amid an international debate about the virus’s origin.
The novel coronavirus comes from a group of viruses that originate or spread in bats, and it’s still unclear what animal may have transmitted the disease to humans, Peter Ben Embarek, a WHO expert in animal diseases that jump to humans said in a briefing with reporters.
The virus probably arrived in humans through contact with animals raised to supply food, though scientists have yet to determine which species, he said.
Studies have shown that cats and ferrets are susceptible to COVID-19, and dogs to a lesser extent, he said, without specifying whether they can transmit the disease to people. It’s important to find out which animals can get infected to avoid creating a “reservoir” in another species, he said.
WHO scientists are considering a new mission to China to get more information about the virus’s animal origin, Maria van Kerkhove, one of the agency’s top epidemiologists, said at a press briefing Wednesday.
Questions remain about whether the virus travelled directly from bats to people, or if other species were involved.
Pangolins, armoured mammals that live in Asia, have been found to harbour versions of Sars-CoV-2 that are similar to those in people.