A pet dog has been put in quarantine in Hong Kong after testing “weak positive” for the coronavirus, authorities said.
The owner, who was infected with the virus, handed the dog over to the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), the department confirmed in a statement.
“We’re working with authorities in Hong Kong and scientists in Hong Kong who are testing … the dog … to understand these results and to understand where or if the dog was actually infected or if the dog picked this up from a contaminated surface, for example,” Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program said.
Initial tests from the dog’s oral, nasal and rectal samples tested a “weak positive” but the “dog does not have any relevant symptoms,” the AFCD said in a statement.
“At present, the AFCD does not have evidence that pet animals can be infected with COVID-19 virus or can be a source of infection to people,” the statement said.
“The department will conduct close monitoring of the .. dog and collect further samples for testing to confirm if the dog has really been infected with the virus or this is a result of environmental contamination of the dog’s mouth and nose.”
The dog did not have any relevant symptoms and its unclear why it was tested in the first place.
Professor Jonathan Ball of Nottingham University said the testing on the dog was a “red herring.”
“It’s like it [coronavirus] being on somebody’s sleeve,” he said. “The amount of virus on the dog was a weak test, so low that it probably wouldn’t transmit anyway, and there’s certainly no more risk than any other surface that could be contaminated by a person with coronavirus.
“Why they even tested the dog is beyond me,” he added, saying the chance of the virus having changed enough in such a rapid period of time to infect the dog – and then to re-infect humans – was “incredibly unlikely.”
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