A pet dog belonging to a Covid-19 patient has contracted the coronavirus, Hong Kong health authorities confirmed on Wednesday.
Experts called 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 has 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. The government only added to the confusion late on Wednesday when it issued a statement without clarifying that detail.
“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 said during a regular press briefing on the epidemic. Previous experience with Sars suggests that cats and dogs will not become sick or transmit the virus to humans
Professor Vanessa Barrs, City University 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 ill.
Apart from maintaining good hygiene practices, pet owners need not be too concerned and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets, the spokesman added.
In a response to questions from the Post, the World Organisation for Animal Health confirmed the dog was likely to be infected, but said there was no evidence that pets played a role in the spread of the virus. A stance supported by the World Health Organisation.
Source: The Star Online