COVID Outbreak at Pet Cat's Birthday Party in Chilean Town Leads to 15 Infections
The cat, however, was not among those infected
A birthday party thrown for a pet cat led to a COVID-19 outbreak that infected over a dozen people.
According to The Sun and Newsweek, who cited local reports, the birthday party for the feline took place in the town of Santo Domingo, Chile, and all ten guests tested positive for COVID-19 afterwards. The attendees also infected five additional family members and friends.
Francisco Alvarez, Valparaiso regional secretary of the Ministry of Health (SEREMI), reportedly confirmed the outbreak in a public statement and said that he did not believe the story when he first heard the news.
"When I heard it was a cat's birthday party I thought it was a joke, that they were probably trying to hide something, but indeed it was," said Alvarez, according to The Sun. He added, "We have corroborated it with at least six of the 15 [infected] people who told us the same thing."
Alvarez also reportedly confirmed that the cat never tested positive for the virus. "It was the birthday organiser, the owner, she was patient zero," he said.
But as prior studies have shown, cats can indeed contract COVID-19. Last April, two felines in New York tested positive for the virus and became the first known pets in the United States to be infected with COVID-19.
However, the CDC and USDA said in a statement at the time that "there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States." The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council echoed that sentiment in their own statement.
RELATED VIDEO: Here's How You Can Help Cats During the Pandemic — According to Cat Expert Jackson Galaxy
In Alvarez's public statement, he said that he is struggling to comprehend why residents are continuing to hold social gatherings despite strict warnings not to from the government amid the pandemic.
"It's complicated and it's a little incomprehensible, especially considering that what we have said in every way and emphasised is that if people are going to meet, they need to take safety measures," he said, according to the Daily Mail.
As of Monday, Jan. 25, at least 703,178 people in Chile have tested positive for COVID-19, while nearly 18,000 people have died from the virus, according to the New York Times coronavirus database.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.