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Coronavirus: Health experts condemn 'incredibly irresponsible' reports of dog contracting disease

Joe Gamp
Contributor, Yahoo News UK
(File photo) Leading health experts have said there is np evidence to support claims that a dog in Hong kong has contracted Coronavirus. (Getty Images)

Heath officials have condemned reports of a dog contracting coronavirus from its infected owner as “mass hysteria”, claiming there is “no evidence” of human-to-pet transmission of the disease.

On Friday, it was widely reported that a Pomeranian, belonging to a 60-year-old woman diagnosed with COVID-19 in Hong Kong, was collected from her home on Wednesday after being placed in a hospital isolation unit.

A statement from the Hong Kong agricultural and fisheries department said the canine was placed in quarantine for 14 days as a precaution but has no "relevant symptoms" and that “nasal and oral cavity samples tested weak positive for COVID-19”.

But a British virology expert has since said there is “no evidence that the human novel coronavirus can infect dogs.”

A dog wears a home made cover over its snout, which its owner said was a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Beijing. (Getty Images)

Jonathan Ball, a Professor of Molecular Virology at the University of Nottingham, said: “We have to differentiate between real infection and just detecting the presence of a virus – these are very different - and the fact that the test result was weakly positive would suggest that this is environmental contamination or simply the presence of coronavirus shed from the human contact that has ended up in the dog’s samples.

Read more: UK territory of Gibraltar bans people entering from coronavirus-hit areas

“In truth this is incredibly irresponsible because the last thing we need to do is create mass hysteria about the possibility of dogs being infected, and therefore potentially transmitting this virus when there is absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever.”

Hong Kong officials did not offer explanation of why they tested the animal in the first place.

Stock markets are falling around the world after the sudden escalation of coronavirus cases in South Korea and Italy in the last few days. (Photo by May James / SOPA images/Sipa USA)

They said it was unclear whether the dog had actually contracted the virus or tested positive for low levels due to environmental contamination of the dog's mouth and nose.

Read more: Two new coronavirus cases in England and first in Wales brings UK total to 19

But as such, health authorities in the country said all pets of people infected with the coronavirus will be quarantined for 14 days.

Meanwhile, British Veterinary Association President Daniella Dos Santos also highlighted that COVID-19 is only transmittable from human-to human.

A map showing recorded coronavirus cases in Europe. (PA)

Dos Santos said: “The current advice from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) remains that the predominant route of transmission is human to human.

Read more: British man dies of coronavirus, Japan confirms

“Further advice from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association is that there is currently no evidence that pets can be infected with Covid-19 and this remains the case at the time of commenting on Friday 28 February (11.30am).

“The reported case of the Pomeranian dog in Hong Kong is undergoing further tests and it would be inappropriate to speculate until we know more. These tests should be able to determine whether the dog tested positive due to environmental contamination from the infected owner.

A man and a woman wear face masks on Newport Place in Soho, London, as the first case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Wales and two more were identified in England - bringing the total number in the UK to 19. (PA)

As of Thursday, there are 65 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Hong Kong, South China Morning Post reported.

Meanwhile on Friday, the total number of infections in the the UK rose to 19 after one person contracted COVID-19 in Wales and two new cases were confirmed in England.

Japan’s health ministry also confirmed on Friday that a British tourist on the Diamond Princess cruise ship has died from coronavirus.