COVID-19 has taken over world headlines since it first emerged in December of 2019. As the disease spread into a pandemic, scientists have scrambled to learn as much about it as quickly as possible. An early bright spot in the overwhelmingly negative news about COVID-19 was that it was believed pets could not get or carry the virus. However, recently a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19, which opened the questions: Can I infect my pet or another animal? And can an infected animal infect me?
What is a virus?
COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by the virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). A virus is any of a large group of microscopic infectious agents. Viruses are composed of genetic material, RNA or DNA, surrounded by a protein coat called a capsid. The capsid keeps the genetic material safe. Some viruses also have greasy coat called an envelope. A virus is a parasite and needs a cell to replicate. Like some animal species, viruses are grouped into families and types with other genetically related viruses. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that usually use cells in the respiratory tract of a human or non-human animal to replicate. They often cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses.
Corona means “crown” in Latin. Corona viruses are named for the spikes on their surface that look like the points on a crown. NIAID-RM