What we do and don’t know about the novel coronavirus

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Experts from the Vet School, Med School, and Center for Public Health Initiatives provide insight into the new disease outbreak.

People in a subway station in Shanghai wearing surgical masks. One is carrying two bags, another is carrying a phone, a third is holding an umbrella.
Penn Today | Michele W. Berger | January 28, 2020

Until a month ago, it’s possible to never have heard of coronavirus, despite the fact that science has known about this family of seven viruses since the 1960s. Four are common, causing mild or moderate respiratory symptoms like a runny nose and sore throat, all of which dissipate quickly.

In the past few decades, however, several new coronaviruses have emerged, originating in animals and jumping to humans. In the early 2000s, it was severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which lead to almost 800 deaths. A decade later Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) came about, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, killed approximately three out of every 10 patients with the virus.

In late December, news started to spread of a new disease originating in Wuhan, China. Since then, at the time of publication, 132 people have died from novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). China has confirmed 6,061 cases, with many more in other countries. The United States has so far identified five.

Though the nature of this outbreak is changing daily, some facets are known. Penn experts Julie Engiles of the School of Veterinary Medicine, David Pegues of the Perelman School of Medicine, and Carolyn Cannuscio of the Center for Public Health Initiatives provide some context:

1. Like its predecessors, the novel coronavirus is a zoonotic disease.

At its simplest, that means the infection can spread between animals and humans, Engiles says. “Something like 61% of known infectious diseases occurring in people are zoonotic,” she adds. “And recently, about 75% of newly emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, so either we’re seeing an increase in their relative frequency or we’re getting better at identifying them.”

They can be passed to humans through direct contact with animal feces and other secretions, contaminated food, indirect transmission via a conduit like water, or vector-borne transmission through mosquitoes, other insects, or even mammals, as is the case with rabies. In some zoonotic diseases like SARS and MERS, human-to-human spread then happens through contact with someone who is sick, likely in the same manner that the flu and other respiratory pathogens move from person to person.

2. Unlike for its predecessors, 2019-nCoV’s host animal hasn’t been confirmed.

SARS and MERS began in animals. “It was eventually determined that civets, which are wild racoon-like animals, were responsible for the SARS epidemic in humans,” Engiles says. “Originally, civets may have gotten SARS from bats, then individual animals likely acquired the infection due to a combination of stress and close physical contact associated with confinement in live-animal markets.” The civets then passed the SARS to humans.

The MERS outbreak 10 years later may also have bats to blame. “For the 2012 coronavirus respiratory outbreak that occurred in Saudi Arabia and other places in the Middle East, dromedary camels were identified as the likely source for viral spread to humans,” she says. “Much like with SARS, this may have arisen from bats, though the exact mode of transmission is still unknown.”

So far, the source of the novel coronavirus remains elusive, she adds, though many animals found at one particular seafood and animal market in Wuhan are being tested.

3. Scientists understand the basics of the new virus.

Though scientists don’t yet have a full picture of 2019-nCoV, they do partially know how it will behave. “This is in the family of common upper respiratory viruses that frequently infect humans,” Pegues says. “In a minority of instances, the upper respiratory problems can lead to pneumonia. We’re really talking about viral pneumonia as the cause of deaths; that’s what differentiates it from a typical respiratory infection like a cold.”

According to the CDC, symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, though health officials are now saying it’s possible for a person to have the illness before any of these appear. Though hospitals across the country can test for coronaviruses generally—Pegues says the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania sees 20 or 25 positive results weekly—that doesn’t include the newest strain.

“Right now, that kind of testing is only available at the CDC,” he says. “Ideally, you’d want to develop testing capacity, validate that on a federal level, and then spread it as quickly as possible to the states.”

4. Though the experience with SARS and MERS has quickened reaction time to such an outbreak, this is still a public health challenge.

It took several months to definitively identify and sequence SARS and to determine the animal source of infection in humans, Engiles says. This time, the first part of that process happened in just 10 days. “This is an example of how previous research in these areas can really help in controlling a novel emerging disease,” she says. That doesn’t mean, however, it’s easy to grasp the epidemic’s full extent.

No matter how quickly a government recognizes the seriousness of an outbreak, surveillance is tricky, according to Cannuscio. “People want and deserve accurate information and answers to their questions, but what can be hard for the public to understand is that inaccurate or incomplete data are the norm” in the early stages of an outbreak, she says. “Counts tend to represent the tip of the iceberg, with only the most severe cases coming to hospitals and the attention of authorities.”

As a situation unfolds, focus tends to expand beyond a human-health toll to social, political, and economic concerns. Case in point: About a month into this outbreak, a quarantine in China now affects more than 50 million people, and public transit in Wuhan has been shuttered, meaning people there cannot go to work or easily travel.

“Epidemiologically, we often count the number of people who have become sick or died from a new virus,” says Cannuscio. “But the health effects may come not just from the virus itself but also from shortages of foods, medicines, or employment, or from longer-term economic effects. These figures are not captured in our case counts.”

5. At the local level, there’s currently nothing to do but use common sense health hygiene.

The five cases in the U.S. have occurred in Washington state, California, Arizona, and Illinois. One high schooler, a Chinese exchange student at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia who had a connecting flight in Wuhan earlier this month, had symptoms, was tested, and does not have coronavirus.

“So far, we have not had documented cases of person-to-person transmission of the novel coronavirus in the U.S.,” Cannuscio says. “This is vitally important because once person-to-person transmission begins, it will be very difficult to identify and isolate new cases in time to prevent rapid escalation.”

Pegues offers the same advice he typically gives during flu season. People should maintain distance from anyone who is ill, cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, and wash their hands—a lot. He also strongly recommends a flu vaccine; health care providers have already seen significant flu activity early this flu season. “It’s dry and cold and people are inside more and low relative humidity helps viruses spread more efficiently and persist longer,” he adds.

Beyond that, all three experts suggest keeping up with the latest news regarding the novel coronavirus through resources like the CDC, World Health Organization, and World Animal Health Information System.

Carolyn Cannuscio is the director of research at the Center for Public Health Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and an associate professor of family medicine and community health at the Perelman School of Medicine.

Julie Engiles is an associate professor of pathology in the Department of Pathobiology at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

David Pegues is a professor in the Department of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Editors Note: The number of deaths and confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus are up to date as of Wed., Jan. 29 at 10 a.m. Eastern. F 

France, Israel shutter restaurants, cafes, non-essential stores amid coronavirus outbreak

France has declared that all non-essential stores, restaurants, movie theaters and cafes will be shut down starting Sunday to prevent the spread of coronavirus throughout the country.

The Israeli government also shut down restaurants, cafes and movie theaters starting Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said public services such as banks, grocery stores and pharmacies will be allowed to remain open.

The world’s coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 150,000 people and killed over 5,700. The disease for most people causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause more severe illness. The vast majority recover.

Fox News’ Trey Yingst and The Associated Press contributed to this story.  March 14, 2020

There’s a sick person on my flight: What do I do?

Fox News | Michael Bartiromo | March 13, 2020

No one likes to be seated near a sick passenger — and that’s especially true during a pandemic.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently puts the risk of contracting COVID-19 on planes at “low” due to the nature of “how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes,” that doesn’t mean travelers shouldn’t take every health precaution possible, and maintain social distancing from anyone exhibiting symptoms of respiratory illness.

Should you find yourself on a plane with a sick passenger, however, you should be aware that the federal government and the CDC have a protocol in place for the airline industry in the event of such instances.

If a passenger is found to be sick on an international flight, federal regulations require the aircraft crew to report the sick passenger to the CDC before arriving in the U.S. The CDC also explains that, if other passengers were exposed to a sick person on a flight, public health officials can launch what’s called a “contact investigation” to help identify and reach out to anyone who may have had contact with this person during their air travel.

Should you find yourself on a plane with a sick passenger, there are protocols in place in the event of such instances.

Should you find yourself on a plane with a sick passenger, there are protocols in place in the event of such instances. (iStock)

“Sometimes CDC is notified about a sick traveler while the plane is still in the air or shortly after the plane has landed,” the agency explains online. “However, in most cases CDC is notified when a sick traveler seeks treatment at a medical facility.”

The CDC would then be responsible for coordinating an investigation between federal agencies and airlines to determine where and how extensively this person traveled (for instance, did they take connecting flights?) and if they were contagious at the time. If the passenger was deemed to be contagious, investigators consult airlines for flight manifests to determine who may have been in contact with the sick person.

Depending on the disease associated with the passenger’s illness, health officials will create a “contact zone” from the seating chart — or rather, an area of the seating chart identifying passengers who were likely exposed.

State and local health officials then use the manifest and “contact zone” information to track down the exposed passengers, conduct health checks, and outline any subsequent steps.

“Contact zones” on planes, however, may not always be limited to areas around the infected passenger: the CDC says any traveling companions, regardless of where they are seated, are considered part of the “contact zone.” Children under 2, who were seated on their guardians’ laps,  are also considered part of any contact zone when investigating a case of measles or rubella.

According to a recent study, whether you sit near a window seat or an aisle may determine how much interaction you may have with infected passengers — although it’s important to note that this in no way negates being considered part of a “contact zone” at risk of exposure.

A study by the “FlyHealthy Research Team,” which has been cited by National Geographic, found that those who were seated in the window had less interaction with people located at least two rows away from them, potentially limiting their exposure. Those seated in aisle seats, however, were more likely to come into contact with passengers moving about the cabin to use the lavatory, or with the airline’s crew members — an average of 64 contacts, versus the window seat’s 12, according to study leads Vicki Stover Hertzberg of Emory University and Howard Weiss of Penn State.

How are plane seats disinfected?

But again, the CDC is still learning about the novel coronavirus and how it spreads, so anyone in close contact with other airline passengers should take every precaution. For example, travelers should avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth after coming into contact with potentially germ-ridden surfaces, and they should frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

The TSA also allows passengers to bring alcohol-based hand sanitizers in carry-on luggage if the containers measure less than 3.4 ounces.

Finally, the CDC advises you monitor your health for two weeks after returning from travel. If you start to feel sick with “fever, cough or have difficulty breathing,” stay home and contact a doctor to report symptoms.

And lastly, anyone with plans to travel — and hopefully this goes without saying — should reconsider flying altogether, and stay home if feeling sick or experiencing symptoms. (After all, you don’t want to find yourself banned for life   from your preferred airline.)

Gov. DeWine: 100,000 believed to have coronavirus in Ohio, number projected to double every six days

FoxNews.com | by Julia Musto | March 13, 2020

The state of Ohio is seeing “very difficult times” under the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday.

In an interview on “America’s Newsroom” with host Sandra Smith, DeWine said he had relied on experts in his decision to order school closings starting Monday evening and ban mass gatherings of more than 100 people.

OHIO LIKELY HAS 100,000 CASES, TOP HEALTH OFFICIAL SAYS

Additionally, on Thursday, Ohio’s top health officials announced that there are likely over 100,000 undiagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the state thus far.

“We have a panel of 14 doctors,” said DeWine. “We also reached out to other experts yesterday and it was clear that we had to take this action in regard to our schools.”

States struggling to get coronavirus testing kits after Trump says process is 'going well'

DeWine explained that what the “experts” were telling him was that the number of projected undiagnosed cases walking around will double every six days.

“You just think about that,” he mused. “We are in some tough times in Ohio. And, it’s very, very important for us to do everything we can do slow this down.”

DeWine said he knew that actions like closing schools had other consequences, but that the goal is to avoid encountering problems like “the situation” in Italy.

Gov. Dewine says Ohio estimated to have over 100K cases of COVID-19

The governor told Smith that they have just over 1,000 testing kits at the Department of Health, but that hospitals are “coming online basically in regard to having [the] kits” and some private labs also have the capability.

“So, you’re going to see more tests done in the next few days. And, of course, the number of people who are testing positive is going to go up,” he stated.

However, DeWine also said that he believes the United States will reach a point where there is not the capacity to test everybody and just “have to move on from there.”

“Because, if you get a million people, two million people, obviously you’re not going to be testing them at that point,” he explained. “So, look, would we like more testing kits? Yeah, we would. But, we are in the same boat everybody else is.”

“And so, we took this action yesterday can’t say to get ahead of this because you can’t get ahead of it really, but to really slow this down as much as we could so that…our hospitals, and our doctors, and our whole health care system will be able to deal with what is coming up,” DeWine concluded.

Mayor of Miami tests positive for coronavirus

FoxNews.com | by Caleb Park | March 13, 2020

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has confirmed he tested positive for coronavirus.

The 42-year-old mayor announced Thursday that he was going to self-quarantine after he learned he may have been in contact with Fabio Wajngarten, the communications secretary for Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro.

Wajngarten showed flulike symptoms and tested positive for the virus early Wednesday.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez tested positive for the coronavirus Friday.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez tested positive for the coronavirus Friday.

On Friday, Suarez announced that although he feels “healthy and strong” he had tested positive and will remain in isolation for at least 14 days.

“If we did not shake hands or you did not come into contact with me if I coughed or sneezed, there is no action you need to take whatsoever,” he said in a statement. “If we did, however, touch or shake hands, or if I sneezed or coughed near you since Monday, it is recommended that you self-isolate for 14 days, but you do not need to get tested.”

Earlier in the day, the Florida Department of Health announced the second positive coronavirus case in Miami-Dade was a 42-year-old man.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who reportedly tested negative, declared a state of emergency Thursday.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fl., announced Thursday that he would also be in self-quarantine after potentially coming in contact with Brazil’s Wajngarten.

Coronavirus can remain in air for 3 hours, live on plastic for days, new study says

Fox News | By Chris Ciaccia | March 11, 2020

Social distancing’ could help stop coronavirus spread: What does that mean?

People are looking for whatever method they can use to avoid coronavirus exposure, and ‘social distancing’ is gaining popularity as one of them. Here’s how it can benefit you.

A new study suggests that the novel coronavirus COVID-19 can remain in the air for up to three hours, and live on surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to three days.

The research, published in the medRxiv depository, also notes that the virus can remain on copper surfaces for four hours and carboard for up to 24 hours. The research found it could stay on stainless steel and plastic for anywhere between two and three days.

“Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of HCoV-19 is plausible, as the virus can remain viable in aerosols for multiple hours and on surfaces up to days,” the researchers wrote in the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Another study published in February concluded that if COVID-19 is similar to other coronaviruses, such as SARS or MERS, it could live on surfaces like metal, glass and plastic for up to nine days, Fox News previously reported. By comparison, the flu virus can only live on surfaces for approximately 48 hours.

That study, published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, suggested that coronaviruses could be “efficiently inactivated” with disinfectants that contain “62–71 percent ethanol, 0.5 percent hydrogen peroxide or 0.1 percent sodium hypochlorite within 1 minute,” adding that other agents that contain “0.05–0.2% benzalkonium chloride or 0.02 percent chlorhexidine digluconate are less effective.”

Currently, there is no specific medicine to cure or treat COVID-19.

More than 127,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed globally, including over 80,000 in China and 1,323 in the U.S., according to the latest data.

Florida Theme Parks Keep Eye on Virus as Spring Break Nears

Florida tourism officials say cases of the new coronavirus are having little visible impact on the theme park industry so far.

The Associated Press

FILE – In this Nov. 19, 2019, file photo, attendees try out a roller coaster where the cars spin and turn on display at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions convention in Orlando, Fla. Orlando is the nation’s most visited tourist destination, bringing vast numbers of people from around the globe to its major theme parks, which also include Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando. The city attracted 75 million visitors in 2018. But it’s also at least 65 miles (105 kilometers) from the nearest coronavirus case. Though some convention business has canceled because of concerns, individual leisure travel hasn’t been affected, local officials said. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — As Florida’s busy spring break season kicked off this month, coronavirus czar Vice President Mike Pence addressed something that’s been on the mind of tens of thousands of families preparing to travel to theme parks: Is it safe?

Over the weekend, Pence stressed it is safe for healthy Americans to travel, noting “one of our favorite places to go when my children were young and even before my children came was in Orlando.”

“Whether it be Disney World, whether it be other destination, whether it be cruise ships … those most at risk are seniors with serious or chronic underlying health conditions.”

“Otherwise Americans can confidently travel in this country,” Pence said at a meeting with cruise industry officials in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.

Still, as COVID-19 concerns multiply, the issue weighs heavily in the tourism industry.

“There is definitely concern. Particularly how and when it could manifest itself in the U.S.,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., an independent industry consultant.

He’s been watching the spread of the coronavirus for weeks, as theme parks in Asia have closed. He estimated the temporary closure of Disney parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong will cost the company anywhere from $175 million to $300 million dollars.

Coronavirus concerns have impacted the state’s cruise industry and convention business, but the theme parks have been spared so far, although that could change at any moment.

Orlando is the nation’s most visited tourist destination, bringing vast numbers of people from around the globe to its major theme parks, which also include Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando. The city attracted 75 million visitors in 2018.

As of Sunday, the city was at least 65 miles (105 kilometers) from the nearest person testing positive for coronavirus.

Though several conventions in Orlando have been canceled because of concerns, individual leisure travel hasn’t been affected, local officials said.

Jennifer Morales, a 47-year-old mother from San Antonio, said the outbreak hasn’t changed her plans for an eight-day Walt Disney World vacation with her daughter. She’s been to Disney World 20-plus times, and her daughter is in a marching band scheduled to be in a park parade. They leave Sunday.

“I don’t think it warrants canceling a vacation right now,” she said, adding that she’s more worried about sitting on a plane with people with colds and the flu. “I’m kind of a germaphobe. We all have our own personal hand sanitizers, We’re diligent about handwashing at the parks, especially after rides. Now we’ll spending a little extra time washing hands. I already travel with a small can of Lysol and hose everything down in our hotel rooms.”

The state draws hordes of college-age students and families with grade-school children during the spring break season, which begins in earnest in mid-March and runs into April. Cancellations could be devastating during one of the busiest times of the year in the Sunshine State.

Last week, five big conventions said they were cancelling their conferences in Orlando because of coronavirus concerns. Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that travelers defer all cruise travel, especially if they have underlying health issues.

The U.S. Travel Association on Tuesday predicted a 6% decline in international visitors to the U.S. over the next three months as a result of coronavirus. If the prediction holds, it would be the largest decline in international inbound travel since the recession a dozen years ago, the association said.

Coronavirus fears hit Florida last week as Disney World opened a new ride based on Mickey Mouse, a park first. The resort’s most anticipated new land in years, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, debuted only last August.

If a Disney visitor shows coronavirus symptoms or first responders think they have the flu, both patient and paramedic will get a face mask, said Tim Stromsnes, president of the union local for firefighters at Disney World.

Speigel said parks and attractions likely will undergo “a lot of fumigation, disinfection, right now, not only in the front of the house, but the back of the house.”

Officials with Busch Gardens and SeaWorld didn’t respond to email inquiries about how the coronavirus had affected them.

Disney officials said in a statement that extra hand sanitizers were being placed throughout its four parks and more than two dozen hotels.

Tom Schroder, a spokesman for Universal Orlando, said it is reinforcing “best-practice health and hygiene procedures” in response to the coronavirus outbreak and adding more hand sanitizer units to its parks.

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation and be ready to act as needed,” he said.

Spiegel added that at many parks, deliveries will be scrutinized and workers will be retrained on cleanliness procedures. Parks may also restrict employee travel to higher-risk countries such as China, Italy and South Korea — a measure Legoland has already taken.

On Wednesday, the opening day of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, about 1,000 people were waiting to enter the park, said Kurt Schmidt, the owner of Inside the Magic, a massive online community and news site for Disney fans.

No one was wearing a mask, Schmidt said.

“From where I’m sitting, there’s absolutely no difference in how things feel,” he said. “I can’t see anything that is different.”

___

Gyms and Coronavirus: What Are the Risks?

Sweat cannot transmit the virus but high-contact surfaces, such as barbells, can pose a problem, a doctor said.

Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

The NY Times | by Aimee Ortiz | March 8, 2020

It’s not the kind of thing you want to think about while you’re in child’s pose in yoga class, when your nose is close to the mat, but after hearing how you should stop touching your face to guard against the coronavirus, you might wonder: What are the risks of transmission while working out at a gym?

The spread of the coronavirus could make even the most ardent gym rats stress out about picking up barbells.

There’s a lower risk of picking up the coronavirus at a gym or health club than at a church service, for example, said Dr. David Thomas, a professor of medicine and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. By comparison, church services may include shaking hands and being in closer proximity to people.

But if you’re in a community where there have been cases of the coronavirus, “that’s, perhaps, a time to be more cautious with all types of exposures, including a gym,” Dr. Thomas said.

Sweat cannot transmit the virus but high-contact surfaces, such as barbells, can pose a problem, he said.

Scientists are still figuring out how the virus exactly spreads but have provided some guidance on how it seems to be transmitted. A study of other coronaviruses found they remained on metal, glass and plastic for two hours to nine days.

Certain objects, like handles and doorknobs, are “disproportionally affected by hands, and those are the surfaces most likely to have viruses for that reason,” Dr. Thomas said.

The owner of a yoga studio in Washington State, where several coronavirus patients have died, according to The Yoga Journal, “says she’s seen a direct impact from all the hysteria in the area on both attendance and business.”

Equinox, the luxury fitness club brand, has sent notices to members, reassuring them that additional steps are being taken during the peak flu season and amid growing concerns about the coronavirus.

The additional steps include disinfecting all club areas with a hospital-grade solution three times a day, reminding people to stay home if they are sick and asking instructors to eliminate skin-to-skin contact, like hands-on adjustments during yoga, a spokeswoman said.

Brian Cooper, chief executive of YogaWorks, sent an email to the company’s clients, reassuring them that it was stepping up its cleaning processes “to keep our facilities a safe and welcoming environment for all students and staff.”

David Carney, president of Orangetheory Fitness, listed precautions in an email on Thursday. “Wipe down your equipment after every block, and don’t hesitate to request a new wipe whenever you need to,” he wrote.

Do you know what’s in those nondescript spray bottle at gyms that you’re supposed to use to wipe down your machine, mat and equipment?

If you’re not sure, ask staff members what’s in the bottle or take your own wipes to the gym.

“I’ll probably bring my own wipes,” Dr. Thomas said on Saturday of his gym trip planned for later that day. “I’ll know that they’re the right wipes and they have the right concentration of alcohol.”

Diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol and several common household disinfectants should be effective against the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Environmental Protection Agency released a list of disinfectants against the virus.

In addition to avoiding frequently handled machines and equipment, it’s recommended, as always, that you wash your hands often and don’t touch your face.

And if you’re feeling sick, stay home.

“This is mostly about how you keep from getting sick at a gym, but please don’t go to the gym if you feel sick,” Dr. Thomas said. “Don’t give it to other people.”

Heather Murphy contributed reporting.

Hong Kong warns residents not to kiss pets after dog contracts coronavirus

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.

NY Governor Cuomo declares state of emergency – Corona virus cases rose to 89

WGRZ2 | ALBANY, N.Y. — Governor Andrew Cuomo held a news conference Saturday afternoon with the latest information regarding confirmed cases of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, in New York State.

During the news conference Cuomo also declared a state of emergency.

Cuomo announced that there are 32 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state. He updated that total to 45 new cases and 89 total across New York State, though none of those confirmed cases are here in Western New York.

The governor said hundreds of tests have been conducted so far in the state. He also gave a list of where the current cases are in New York. He said 70 cases are in Westchester County, 11 cases are in New York City, four are in Nassau County, two are in Rockland County, and two are in Saratoga County.

Out of the 89 confirmed cases; 10 people have been hospitalized.

Andrew Cuomo

@NYGovCuomo

Update: There are 13 additional cases of #Coronavirus in NYS since earlier today, bringing total to 89.

Westchester: 70
NYC: 11
Nassau: 4
Rockland: 2
Saratoga: 2

There will be more cases as we test more—that’s a good thing bc we can deal with the situation based on more facts.

There are currently 116 people in quarantine in Erie County as part of the coronavirus protocol. New York State says 115 of those quarantines are precautionary. One quarantine is mandatory. Niagara County says they have four people under voluntary quarantine.

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