If you are worried your pet can transmit novel coronavirus, relax, it cannot, assures Viktor Maleyev, an advisor to the scientific director of the Russian consumer watchdog’s Research Institute of Epidemiology.
The suspicion arose when the pet dog (a Pomeranian) of a 60-year-old coronavirus patient in Hong Kong contracted the virus on February 27. The city authorities are unclear whether the pet was the recipient or the transmitter of the virus. They suspect the dog to be the carrier of the deadly virus.
A pet dog was found to have "low level’" of coronavirus in Hong Kong https://t.co/VX0aScebBX
— Bloomberg (@business) February 28, 2020
This is the first reported case of COVID-2019 in pets. Authorities tested the nasal and oral cavity sample of the dog and found the animal to be “weak positive” for the virus. The canine has since been quarantined and will be closely monitored for 14 days or until it tests negative for the virus.
The pet dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong tested “weak positive” for the virus https://t.co/h3502NuwKb
— TIME (@TIME) February 28, 2020
Ever since the local authorities have announced that all pets of the infected patients will be kept in isolation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is keeping a close eye on the pet. The WHO team present in the city is investigating whether the Pomeranian was actually infected or the pathogen from the owner simply landed on its body. The dog has not shown any signs and symptoms of the disease yet.
The news has further tensed up the environment in the country. However, Maleyev has dismissed all such rumors as myths having little to do with reality:
There are currently seven described types of coronaviruses that cause acute respiratory diseases in humans. They include the novel coronavirus. According to contemporary data, cats, dogs, hamsters and other pets cannot spread this kind of coronavirus infection.
The WHO agrees with Maleyev and has added that currently there is no evidence that a pet – dog, cat, hamster or birds – can catch and transmit the pathogen. However, they suggest caution; a pet owner should wash hands with soap and a generous amount of water to lower the risk of contracting other pathogens, such as E. coli and Salmonella, that can possibly be present in the animal saliva, skin and fur.
Are Animal Coronavirus Transmittable?
Animal and avian coronaviruses (CoV) have been around since 1960s. Several strains of the virus, particularly bronchitis virus (IBV) infect the poultry animals’ airways, gut or the kidneys and result in high mortality rates. There is no vaccine to prevent the poultry from the virus. These viruses never jumped species and humans were not infected by them until the first case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) emerged in humans in 2002-03. Later in 2012, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus (MERS-CoV) appeared in humans. Both viruses originated in bats and used cats and camels as zoonotic reservoirs.
Authorities took rigorous measures to contain both cases of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV and it took years before the virus transmission was effectively curbed. However, no licensed antivirals are available for the treatment of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV to date.
Given the track record of the coronaviruses, precaution remains the best defense until concerned authorities come up with credible information.