Pomeranian tested a ‘weak positive’ for virus after owner was infected, authorities say.
The Guardian | by Helen Davidson | March 4, 2020
Hong Kong authorities have warned people to avoid kissing their pets, but also to not panic and abandon them after a dog repeatedly tested “weak positive” for coronavirus.
The Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said experts unanimously agreed the results suggested the dog had “a low-level of infection and it is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission”.
The Pomeranian’s owner was infected with Covid-19 but the dog itself was not showing symptoms, authorities said.
Medical experts, including from the World Health Organization (WHO), had been investigating the case to determine if the dog was actually infected or had picked it up from a contaminated surface. The WHO has said there is no evidence animals like dogs or cats can be infected with the coronavirus.
“Pet owners need not be overly concerned and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets,” said Hong Kong’s department of agriculture.
Authorities warned pet owners in the city, where 103 people have been infected with Covid-19 and thousands are in self-quarantine, not to panic.
“Pet owners are reminded to adopt good hygiene practices (including hand washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing them) and to maintain a clean and hygienic household environment,” the department said.
“People who are sick should restrict contacting animals. If there are any changes in the health condition of the pets, advice from a veterinarian should be sought as soon as possible.”
The Society for the Protection of Animals in Hong Kong said being infected was not the same as being infectious, and capable of spreading the virus.
“While the information tells us that the dog has a low-level of infection members of the public should note that the dog is showing no symptoms whatsoever. We have been informed the dog is currently very healthy and doing well at the quarantine centre.”
The world organisation for animal health also emphasised there was no evidence pets spread the disease, or even get sick themselves.
“There is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare,” it said.
The Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has been contacted for further details.
The animal was first tested on 26 February and showed low levels of the virus the following day. Tests were repeated on 28 February and 2 March, returning “weak positive” results.
It was in quarantine and would continue to be tested until it returned a negative result, and could be returned to its owner, the department said.