- A pet dog was quarantined in Hong Kong after testing positive for a low level of the novel coronavirus, though it was not showing symptoms and it's unclear whether it's actually infected.
- Both Hong Kong health officials and the World Health Organization have said there is no evidence that pets like cats and dogs can be infected by the virus or spread it to humans.
- Nonetheless, Hong Kong officials recommend that any mammal pets owned by infected patients be brought in for quarantine and testing.
- Thousands of pets have been abandoned in cities under quarantine in China as owners are unable to return.
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A pet dog has been quarantined in Hong Kong after testing positive for a low level of the novel coronavirus, though officials say further testing is needed to confirm whether the animal is actually infected.
The dog was quarantined in an animal center after getting a "weak positive" result in a test for the COVID-19 virus.
The dog has not shown any symptoms of COVID-19, however, a spokesman for Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said on Friday.
The spokesman said the dog belonged to a patient infected with the virus.
A low level of the virus was found in the dog's nasal and oral cavities, and officials now plan to run more tests to see whether the dog is actually sick or whether the test results were skewed by "environmental contamination of the dog's mouth and nose."
Both Hong Kong officials and global health experts have previously said there is no evidence that pets can get infected with the virus or can spread it to humans.
The dog will be tested multiple times and "will only be returned when the test result is negative," according to the statement.
Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of the communicable-disease branch of Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection, said health authorities would review the list of confirmed infected patients in the city and determine whether any had pets that would needed to be tested, Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported.
"At present, the AFCD does not have evidence that pet animals can be infected with COVID-19 virus or can be a source of infection to people," the AFCD spokesman said on Friday.
The World Health Organization also said: "At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus."
The AFCD said that the dog in question was the only dog quarantined at a facility in a Hong Kong port and that "staff of the department will step up cleansing and disinfection of the animal keeping facility."
The statement said pet owners should maintain good hygiene, washing their hands well after contacting pets, and should wear masks outside their home.
"If there are any changes in the health condition of the pets, advice from veterinarians should be sought as soon as possible," the statement added.
Some regions have started taking action against the animals despite health officials' statements that there is no evidence cats or dogs can infect humans.
Reuters reported that authorities in Moscow have rounded up stray animals and exterminated rats in a bid to stop the virus from spreading. Animal-rights groups have criticized such moves.
In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, some people have been putting masks on their dogs.
The city of about 11 million people has been under lockdown for more than a month. Thousands of pets there have been abandoned because their owners are quarantined or unable to return to the city.
Some volunteer groups are breaking into apartments to feed pets at their owners' requests, but they say they are overwhelmed by the number of pets in the city.
Wild animals have also been killed by the disinfectant used to fight the coronavirus.
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