WHO Reverses Position: Some Pets Can Catch Coronavirus


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.

Quartz reported that the WHO’s myth-buster page on animals such as dogs or cats has disappeared from the website as of Saturday morning.

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.

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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.”

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“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.”

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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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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith