Coronavirus: Reports of human-to-animal transmission in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department has said that a pet dog belonging to an owner with novel coronavirus (Covid-19) had repeatedly tested ‘weak positive’ for the virus.

It indicates a “low level” of infection, and is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission.

The Pomeranian dog had been placed in quarantine last week after testing ‘weak positive’ for the virus and tests were being done to determine whether the dog tested positive due to environmental contamination from the infected owner.

Responding to the latest update from Hong Kong authorities, British Veterinary Association president Daniella Dos Santos said: “The OIE [World Organisation for Animal Health] and Hong Kong Government have unanimously agreed that the ongoing test results of the Pomeranian dog suggest that the dog has a low level of infection and that this is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission.

“The dog has not shown any clinical signs of disease and is still under quarantine.

“We are very wary of speculating beyond the information that is available at the time of commenting.

However, we’re aware that during the SARS outbreak in 2003, a small number of cats and dogs tested positive for the virus. These animals did not transmit the virus to other animals of the same species or to humans.

“We are particularly keen not to cause any unnecessary concern that could lead to pet abandonment.

“We would emphasise that, at the moment, there remains no evidence that pet animals can be a source of infection of Covid-19 for humans or other animals, or that they become sick. The main source of infection remains human-to-human transmission.

“Our advice for pet owners who have been instructed to self-isolate because of infection or risk of infection with Covid-19 is to keep your pets isolated with you but restrict your contact with them as a precautionary measure until more information is known about the virus and routes of transmission.

“Practising good hygiene is absolutely essential. Owners should always wash their hands before and after any interaction with an animal and avoid being licked by their pet.

“If a pet shows clinical signs, please do not take it to the vet; call your vet practice for further advice.”