A woman pushes a stroller with two dogs wearing masks along a street in Shanghai on February 19, 2020.
Noel Celis | AFP | Getty Images
World Health Officials said a dog in Hong Kong that has the coronavirus is “doing well” and hasn’t yet developed any symptoms.
The older male dog tested, which tested “weakly positive” for COVID-19 in late February, is the only canine in the world with a confirmed infection, said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead of WHO’s emergencies program. The dog reportedly belongs to a 60-year-old woman who developed symptoms on Feb. 12 and later tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Despite the diagnosis, she said there’s no evidence of human-to-dog or dog-to-human transmission.
“We’re only aware of this one animal that has tested positive and he’s doing well,” Kerkhove said at a press conference at WHO’s headquarters in Geneva on Thursday. “In terms of what this means for transmission, we don’t believe this is a major driver of transmission.”
Kerkhove said WHO is working closely with Hong Kong authorities, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organisation for Animal Health to determine how COVID-19 might affect animals but said that there is no evidence that supports animals can transmit the disease.
WHO will continue to study the case and will work with the agency’s partners to address further questions, she said.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, added that it is not unusual to find pets and other animals that can transmit diseases and that the case of the Hong Kong dog is not unusual or unprecedented.
“We’re back to the core question: Are animals intimately associated with the spread of this disease? And the answer to that is no,” Ryan said. “In this case, this dog was a victim more than others and we need to establish quite clearly what part animals might play in further transmission.”
At the time the dog was found, the Hong Kong government said it would quarantine all cats, dogs and other domesticated animals in a holding facility if their owners test positive and were quarantined for COVID-19.
Although the virus seems to have emerged from an animal — scientists have said a bat — there is currently no evidence that suggests pets like dogs or cats can be infected with the coronavirus, health officials said. However, the situation is still evolving.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests pet owners restrict contact with pets and other animals if the owner is infected with COVID-19. That includes “petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.”