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November 01, 2021

Pet ferret in Florida develops SARS-CoV-2 infection

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A pet ferret in Florida developed an infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in September, becoming the first of its species with a known natural infection within the U.S.

The ferret had developed clinical signs, including sneezing and coughing, and it likely acquired the infection from a person with COVID-19, according to a Sept. 24 announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Florida’s Bronson Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory conducted the initial testing, and the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the animal was positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

At least one other pet ferret, in Slovenia, developed a natural infection that was identified in December 2020, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Also in late 2020, working ferrets used for rabbit control in Spain developed natural infections, according to a research letter in the July 2021 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The USDA announcement notes that a small number of animal species worldwide have had confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections, mostly among animals in close contact with people who had COVID-19.