The pet dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong tested “weak” positive for COVID-19 and has been put in quarantine, a government spokesman said Friday.
It was not immediately clear if the animal tested positive due to “environmental contamination” of the dog’s mouth and nose, according to a statement from the territory’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
The department said it does not have evidence that pets can be infected with the virus or can be a source of infection to people.
The AFCD received word about the dog from the Department of Health on Feb. 26 and picked it up from a residential flat that evening, according to the statement.
Officials collected oral, nasal and rectal samples for testing, and the dog’s nasal and oral samples “tested weak positive” for COVID-19.
The dog did not have any relevant symptoms, the department said, adding that it plans to conduct additional testing.
The dog was placed in quarantine at an animal facility at the Hong Kong Port of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, where it was the only animal at the facility.
The department is advising that all mammalian pets of coronavirus patients should put their pets under quarantine and veterinary surveillance for 14 days.
“If there are any changes in the health condition of the pets, advice from veterinarians should be sought as soon as possible,” the statement said.
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Researchers suspect that COVID-19 spread to humans through an animal, but it was not clear what kind of animal transmitted the disease to people. The virus is now spreading from person to person.
Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical Lead at the World Health Organization Emergencies Programme, said Friday that the WHO is aware that the dog tested positive and that the organization is anticipating further testing.
The WHO and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have previously said there is nqevidence that pets may be a source of infection for the coronavirus.
However, both organizations recommend washing your hands after being around animals and avoiding contact with pets while you are sick with COVID-19.
Health experts do not recommend the use of face masks as a preventative measure, but some companies that make face masks for dogs have experienced a spike in sales.