THE PET dog of a coronavirus patient has tested positive for the deadly disease.
The owner of the dog, Yvonne Chow Hau Yee, who lives in Hong Kong with her beloved Pomeranian, tested her pet pooch after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
The dog has been quarantined by officials, suggesting they have concerns that the pet could pass on the disease.
If confirmed, the Pomeranian would mark the first case of coronavirus in a pet animal, as infected numbers topped 82,000 worldwide.
The pooch was collected from its owner’s home on Wednesday, after the woman was diagnosed with COVID-19 and placed in a hospital isolation ward.
A department spokesperson confirmed the Pomeranian’s “nasal and oral cavity samples were tested weak positive to COVID-19 virus,” however did not explain why they tested the animal in the first place.
The spokesperson added: “At present, the AFCD [Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department] does not have evidence that pet animals can be infected with COVID-19 virus or can be a source of infection to people.”
The dog, which is not yet exhibiting any symptoms, has been quarantined in an animal shelter that is holding no other animals, the Hong Kong government said.
It will remain at the shelter for 14 days and undergo repeated tests, as officials try to confirm whether the dog has really been infected with the disease, or if it was a result of environmental contamination of its mouth and nose.
Owner Hau Yee was said to have developed symptoms a week ago, and was diagnosed with the coronavirus five days later.
Local media reported that she went out to drink tea and attended a wedding while infected.
News of the Pomeranian’s “weak positive” result brings more uncertainly over the coronavirus, which is fast spreading around the world after emerging in central China late last year.
While officials state there is no evidence showing animals can be infected with or contaminants of the virus, there have been links between COVID-19 and animals in the past.
But Professor Jonathan Ball, of the University of Nottingham’s Molecular Virology unit, said: “There is no evidence that the human novel coronavirus can infect dogs and it would be incredible for a virus to make so many species jumps in such a short space of time.”
“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.