A pet dog of a COVID-19 patient from China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has tested "weak positive" for the novel coronavirus, meaning low levels of the virus were found in the animal's body, the city's health authorities announced on February 28, fueling fears that pets might catch and spread the virus.
The dog, which has been put under quarantine, exhibited no symptoms of the disease, said the city's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, adding that more tests would be conducted to confirm if it had really been infected and if it picked up the virus from a contaminated environment.
The department also said that there's no evidence that pets could contract the coronavirus or transmit it to people. However, the situation is still evolving, scientists say.
WHO: No evidence that pets can contract COVID-19
The Question and Answer Section about COVID-19 on the World Health Organization (WHO) website says there is no evidence that pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or could spread the virus.
But the WHO suggests washing hands with soap and water after coming into contact with pets, as it can significantly reduce the transmission of other common bacteria.
Experts: COVID-19 can transmit among mammals, precautions needed
When asked about the issue on January 29, Li Lanjuan, member of China's high-level expert team on the epidemic, said the novel coronavirus can transmit among mammals, thus precautions should be taken in case of mammalian pets.
"In the epidemic season, owners should strengthen the management of their pets," she said. "And if a pet has come into contact with an infected person, it must be quarantined and monitored as well."
An immunology expert, who asked not to be named, told a reporter from Chinanews that there is no experimental data to prove that domestic pets can get infected with the virus and transmit it to humans. "But the odds are high," he was quoted as saying.