No evidence pets can transmit coronavirus to humans: Hong Kong health chief

Men wearing masks walk past the Golden Bauhinia statue in Bauhinia Square, Hong Kong, on Feb 24, 2020.
Men wearing masks walk past the Golden Bauhinia statue in Bauhinia Square, Hong Kong, on Feb 24, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Hong Kong authorities said on Friday (Feb 28) that there is no evidence yet to show dogs can transmit the new coronavirus to humans or other animals, after the pet dog belonging to a woman with the coronavirus tested "weak positive", local media reported.

Secretary for Health Sophia Chan said tests would be carried out on the dog repeatedly until it is cleared of the virus, RTHK reported.

“They do not, at this point in time, have sufficient evidence to say that this particular pet would transmit to other people or pets, but it’s important for them to quarantine this particular dog and also continue their testing with the dog,” she said.

She said pet owners should maintain good personal hygiene and take their pets to a vet if the animals fall ill.

Hong Kong authorities said on Friday they quarantined the pet dog after its nasal and oral samples tested "weak positive" for the virus, though they added they did not yet have evidence that it can be transmitted to pets. The dog did not have any symptoms.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said it will conduct further tests to confirm if the dog had been infected with the virus or if the samples were only the result of environmental contamination.

"At present, the AFCD does not have evidence that pet animals can be infected ... or can be a source of infection to people," it said in a statement.

The dog will be put under quarantine for two weeks.

According to RTHK, the dog belongs to a 60-year-old confirmed with the infection on Tuesday. The woman is a Jockey Club member who lives in Tai Hang. One of her two domestic helpers has also been infected with the virus.

The World Health Organisation website says so far there has been no evidence that companion pets can be infected with the coronavirus.

Hong Kong has reported 93 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections in humans, and two fatalities.