The World Health Organization has walked back its claim that there was no evidence that pets could be infected by the coronavirus after a dog in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus.
In an email to Quartz, the WHO said, “currently, there is no evidence that pets such as dogs and cats have infected humans with COVID-19.”
The WHO’s previous statement about pets said, “there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus.”
The reversal came after a blood test from a pet dog in Hong Kong revealed a low-level infection of COVID-19.
#BREAKING: The Hong Kong govt said in a statement on Mar 3 that a pet dog had repeatedly tested “weak positive” the for #COVID2019 virus, which indicates a low-level of infection with the #coronavirus. Two other dogs are also under quarantine, the govt added. H/T: @galileocheng pic.twitter.com/cM1ZNE8aR2
— Ezra Cheung (@ezracheungtoto) March 4, 2020
The dog has been quarantined since Feb. 26 after its owner was found to have COVID-19 and hospitalized, The Washington Post reported.
The government said at first it seemed the positive test came from “environmental contamination,” but after further consultation, the low-level infection “is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission.”
“We strongly advise that mammalian pet animals including dogs and cats from households with persons confirmed as infected with COVID-19 or as close contacts of COVID-19 infected persons should be put under quarantine in AFCD facilities to safeguard public and animal health,” Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said.
The dog has not shown symptoms of coronavirus and further blood tests were conducted to try to determine the cause of this singular case.
“The repeated earlier test results support this being a true infection,” J. Scott Weese, a professor at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College, told The Post.
“It wouldn’t be surprising for this to be a low-grade infection because dogs are not thought to be very good hosts for this virus.”
A dog has tested positive for COVID-19 in Hong Kong, the WHO confirmed: “The dog is doing well we understand, he doesn’t have symptoms… in terms of what this means for transmission, we don’t believe this is a major driver of transmission.” https://t.co/A5RTsQLTsQ pic.twitter.com/XOxvvwUdTh
— ABC News (@ABC) March 5, 2020
The New York Post reported Saturday morning that the dog has since tested negative for coronavirus.
Despite the negative test results, however, authorities still believe the dog could be a carrier and continue to hold him in isolation.
As of now, experts still say pet owners should not worry about treating their animals differently or worry about them contracting the virus.
However, anyone who has COVID-19 or has been exposed to the virus should restrict contact with their pets to avoid exposing the pet to the virus and getting it on their skin or fur to potentially pass it to another human.
“If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
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