Pets and COVID-19
(Photo : REUTERS/Aly Song)
A dog wearing a mask is seen at a main shopping area, in downtown Shanghai, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, February 16, 2020.

The government announced that a Hong Kong COVID-19 patient's pet Pomeranian tested "weak positive" for the novel coronavirus, Friday.

According to the city's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, the dog has not shown any symptoms of the disease and there are no evidence that suggests that pet animals can contract the coronavirus strain or transmit it to humans.

The department stated that more tests need to be conducted in order to confirm if the dog really has been infected or if the "weak positive" test result was due to environmental contamination on the dog's mouth and nose. Hence, other samples including oral, nasal and rectal samples were collected for further testing.

Per the World Health Organization (WHO), there is still no evidence that pets or companion animals can be infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus. However, they advised on their website that it is always a good idea and practice to wash one's hands with soap and water after getting in contact with their pets.

In their statement, the agriculture department of Hong Kong said that it was alerted to take in the dog after its owner who lived in Tai Hang was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was put in quarantine, Wednesday. The pet was then sent to the dog-keeping facilities at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, immediately.

Furthermore, the department said that the dog would still need to undergo a series of tests and until the repeated tests turn out negative, the dog would stay in the dog-keeping facility and will not be returned to the owner.

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The dog was reportedly owned by a Jockey Club member who contacted the virus along with her domestic helper. Both are just two of the 93 cases that have been reported in Hong Kong.

On top of this, the department also said in a statement that patients who tested positive were strongly advised that their mammalian pets need to be placed under quarantine to ensure animal and public health. He also added that pets under quarantine would be brought to animal-keeping facilities designated by the government for veterinary surveillance for two weeks. Samples will then be harvested for testing of COVID-19 virus infection.

Moreover, the department's spokesman reminded pet owners to maintain their pets' hygiene and also make it a habit to clean up after interacting with their animal companions. Pet owners were also advised to wear protective masks when going out. He also stressed that any change in the pet's condition needs to be reported and advice should immediately be sought from veterinarians.

The coronavirus outbreak which first started in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China has already infected 82,000 worldwide and has caused more than 2,800 deaths. Although the majority of these cases are in mainland China, the virus has spread on 50 countries across all continents apart from Antarctica.

WHO has warned that the virus is slowly growing the qualities of a worldwide pandemic.

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