A woman in Hong Kong who was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus may have infected her pet dog, initial reports suggest, although these remain inconclusive.
According to a spokesperson from the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), the test results point to "a low level of infection and it is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission."
The World Health Organization (WHO), however, says there is no evidence that indicate dogs or cats could be infected with the coronavirus.
Nonetheless, the AFCD advises pet owners to be more cautious and adopt good hygiene practices, like proper handwashing before holding pets and before handling their food. Kissing pets is also highly discouraged.
"People who are sick should restrict contacting animals. If there are any changes in the health condition of the pets, advice from a veterinarian should be sought as soon as possible,” it adds.
The pet dog has been tested three times so far: on February 26, February 28, and March 2. All tests came back with a "weak positive" result.
Despite this, the Pomeranian, currently under quarantine, remains healthy and does not show any symptoms.
The World Organisation for Animal Health says on its website's FAQs that "There is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare."
Similarly, the AFCD reiterated, "Pet owners need not be overly concerned and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets."
The novel coronavirus remains to be a threat worldwide, with close to 100,000 cases confirmed worldwide as of this writing, and more than 3,000 deaths so far. Out of Hong Kong's 105 confirmed cases, 2 have died and 46 have recovered.