Pet dog infected with COVID-19, Hong Kong authorities confirm


Hong Kong health authorities confirmed on Wednesday that a pet dog belonging to a Covid-19 patient had contracted the coronavirus, with experts calling it a low-level infection that was likely to be the first reported case of human-to-animal transmission of the disease.

The Pomeranian, which repeatedly tested weak positive since last Friday suggesting it was surface contamination, with the dog picking up traces of the virus in its nose and mouth rather than being actually infected will now remain under quarantine with the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department for further testing.

One respiratory disease expert questioned whether the dog could be declared infected without blood test results for final confirmation, as the government issued a late statement on Wednesday night without clarifying such details, adding to the confusion.

It is positive to tests and has been infected, so it is now quarantined in a centre by the department. Further tests will be conducted and it will not be released until the tests return negative results, was all health minister Sophia Chan Siu-chee would say earlier during a regular press briefing on the coronavirus crisis.

In its statement later, the department said experts from the University of Hong Kong, City University and the World Organisation for Animal Health had been consulted, and all unanimously agreed that these results suggest that the dog has a low level of infection and it is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission.

A spokesman stressed there was still no evidence that pet animals could be a source of infection of Covid-19 or that they could fall sick. Apart from maintaining good hygiene practices, pet owners need not be overly concerned and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets, the spokesman added.

Animal health expert Professor Vanessa Barrs from City University urged the public not to panic, as there was no evidence people could be infected by their pets.

These test results suggest that the dog has a low level of infection, which was also found in several pets in the Sars [severe acute respiratory syndrome] outbreak in 2003, she said.

Previous experience with Sars suggests that cats and dogs will not become sick or transmit the virus to humans. At that time, a small number of pets tested positive but none became sick. Importantly, there was no evidence of viral transmission from pet dogs or cats to humans.

Source: SCMP

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