Pet cats and dogs cannot pass the new coronavirus on to humans, but they can test positive for low levels of the pathogen if they catch it from their owners. That's the conclusion of Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department after a dog in quarantine tested weak positive for the virus Feb. 27, Feb. 28, and March 2, using the canine's nasal and oral cavity samples, the AP reports. "There is currently no evidence that pet animals can be a source of infection of COVID-19 or that they become sick," a department spokesman said in a news release. Scientists suspect the virus that causes the disease originated in bats before passing it on to another species, possibly a small wild mammal, that passed it on to humans.
Experts from several institutions agree, however, that the dog has a low-level of infection and it is "likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission." In general, pet owners should maintain good hygiene, including not kissing their pet and washing hands before and after handling animals and their food, authorities say. People who are sick should avoid contact with pets and a veterinarian's advice should be sought if changes in a pet's health conditions are detected. "Apart from maintaining good hygiene practices, pet owners need not be overly concerned and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets," the department spokesman said. The dog, and another in quarantine that has tested negative for the virus, will be tested again before being released.
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