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Yes, dog tested positive for new coronavirus – but no evidence pets can spread Covid-19

A pet dog in Hong Kong has tested positive for coronavirus, claims an article published on the entertainment website Lad Bible on 28 February 2020.

It says the dog was put in quarantine after testing “weak positive” for the new coronavirus, which causes the disease Covid-19 in humans. But the dog didn’t show any symptoms of the disease.

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases. 

In December 2019 a new strain of coronavirus was found to be responsible for an outbreak of Covid-19 in Wuhan, China. By the morning of 10 March 2020 there were 114,000 confirmed cases of the disease worldwide, with 4,000 deaths recorded. 

Lad Bible’s article has been shared more than 46,000 times on Facebook, and viewed by almost 16 million users. It’s also been tagged as possibly false by the social network’s fact-checking system.

Has a dog tested positive for coronavirus? We investigated.

Hong Kong officials confirm virus detected in dog

A 28 February 2020 press release from the Hong Kong government confirmed that a low level of the new coronavirus had been detected in a pet dog. The dog’s owner had already been diagnosed with Covid-19. 

The dog had no “relevant symptoms” but was put in a quarantine facility where it would be repeatedly tested for the virus. It would be returned to its owner once it tested negative.

A spokesperson from Hong Kong’s agriculture and conservation department said they would “conduct close monitoring” of the dog and “collect further samples for testing to confirm if the dog has really been infected with the virus or this is a result of environmental contamination of the dog's mouth and nose”.

The department advised that all the mammalian pets – mainly cats and dogs – of people confirmed to have Covid-19 should be quarantined and monitored for at least 14 days in animal-keeping facilities. 

No evidence animals contract or spread Covid-19

The Hong Kong dog did test positive for the new coronavirus, but there’s no evidence that pets can spread it to people. That’s according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, and the World Health Organization.

“Members of the public are advised to differentiate that ‘being infected’ does not equal being infectious and capable of spreading the Covid-19 virus,” the Hong Kong SPCA was quoted as saying. 

The virus is spread by drops of liquid from an infected person’s nose or mouth, when they cough or sneeze. It’s also spread by touch. People can get the virus by touching something or someone that carries the virus and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose.

Officials said it was likely a case of human-to-animal transmission. 

As a precaution, the CDC recommends that people diagnosed with Covid-19 restrict contact with their pets and wash their hands before and after petting and spending time with them. – Naledi Mashishi

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