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The unusual case of a HK dog that has tested “weak positive” for Covid-19

"Strong advice" that "mammalian" pets of people infected with Covid-19 be placed under quarantine for 14 days

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— With the sweeping across the globe, animal lovers and pet owners everywhere are relieved that the disease does not affect . Or does it? A dog in tested “weak positive” with the just last week.

A statement on the test result was released last Friday (Feb 28) by the territory’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD).
Following a referral from the Department of Health on Feb 26, a pet dog of an infected Covid-19 patient was handed over to the AFCD. The dog was picked up from a residential flat in Tai Hang and sent to an animal keeping facility.
At the facility, oral, nasal and rectal samples were collected from the dog for testing of the Covid-19 virus. Although the dog did not have relevant symptoms of the virus, its nasal and oral cavity samples tested a “weak positive”.
The dog is the only animal under quarantine for the Covid-19 virus. It is being held at a facility at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. The staff there will be cleansing and disinfecting the facility.
The AFCD statement noted that the dog will be repeatedly tested until the result comes back negative. It “strongly advises” that “mammalian” pets of people infected with be placed under quarantine for 14 days.
It added that there is no evidence that can be infected with the virus. This is also backed up by the World Health Organization (WHO).

However, while dogs can test positive for the virus, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have been infected.

Studies into the coronavirus show that it is passed from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are spread when a person infected with Covid-19 coughs or breathes.
These droplets can land on objects and surfaces around the infected person, and others can  catch the virus by breathing in the droplets or touching those items (such as mobile phones or door handles) and touching their eyes, noses or mouths.

Scientists still don’t know exactly how long the Covid-19 virus can linger on surfaces and objects.

Animals such as dogs or cats could also be “surfaces or objects” where the virus is lingering, even if the pet has not contracted the virus. The AFCD is conducting further tests to determine whether the dog has merely been contaminated with the virus or properly infected.

“Present evidence suggests that dogs are no more of a risk of spreading (the coronavirus) than inanimate objects such as door handles,” according to the founder of the Hong Kong-based Lifelong Animal Protection Charity (LAP), Ms Sheila McClelland, in a letter to the Hong Kong authorities (shared with CNN).

Ms McClelland added that there are no scientific studies to back up accurate coronavirus testing in animals, and there currently have been no confirmed cases of pets contracting the virus worldwide.

Dr Jane Gray, the Hong Kong SPCA’s Chief Veterinary Surgeon, noted that dogs and cats do get coronaviruses. However, these are strains which do not cause respiratory illnesses and are not associated with this current outbreak.

The AFCD is “strongly advising” the quarantine of mammalian pets of patients confirmed to have been infected with Covid-19 virus. The pets will be sent to AFCD animal keeping facilities and will be placed under veterinary surveillance for 14 days, while samples will be collected for testing.

Pet owners are reminded to keep good hygiene practices, such as washing hands thoroughly with soap or hand sanitiser after touching their furry friends. The AFCD statement also advises pet owners to “wear masks while going out” and to consult veterinarians if pets show signs of ill health. /TISG

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