Coronavirus: Second Dog Tests Positive in Hong Kong After First Dies

Hong Kong officials said a second dog has tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday. The 2-year-old German shepherd was living with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 the disease caused by the coronavirus, in Hong Kong's Pok Fu Lam neighborhood. The dog has been in quarantine since Wednesday, as well as a 4-year-old mixed-breed dog from the same home.

Officials took oral and nasal swabs of the two dogs on Wednesday and Thursday. The results from the German shepherd returned positive, but were negative for the mixed-breed dog. A Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) spokesman told the South China Morning Post the dogs did not show signs of COVID-19. However, they would continue monitoring the dogs and would conduct "repeated tests."

"It is very likely that the two positive cases [in Hong Kong] are examples of human-to-dog transmission," Professor Malik Peiris, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, told the Post. "We will also follow up on the mixed-breed dog, but it has tested negative."

Earlier this week, a Pomeranian living in Hong Kong was the first reported case of a positive coronavirus case in a pet. The 17-year-old dog was put in quarantine on Feb. 26 and returned home on Saturday, reports the Post. Three days later, the owner told authorities the dog died.

However, sources told the Post it was unlikely that COVID-19 was responsible for the dog's death. The dog had a "weak positive" infection, but a source said the dog's age and past health issues were the likely cause of its death. The average Pomeranian lives to 12 to 16 years, and the dog was a year past that average.

"The dog did not develop any new symptoms after getting the virus [as it is just weakly positive]," a source told the Post. "It is very unlikely the virus had any contribution to the death of the dog."

The Pomeranian was tested multiple times during its quarantined, with five nasal and oral samples showing "weak positive" results. The last two tests, completed on March 12 and 13, came back negative, which was why the dog was released.

"What is meant by ‘weakly positive’ is that the test had detected low quantities of virus from the specimens collected from the do," Peiris explained. "To put it into perspective, a similar result in a human patient would be clearly regarded as diagnostic of Covid-19 infection... The low virus quantity may, however, be relevant when you consider how infectious the dog is to other dogs or humans. But in reality, we do not know how infectious the dog may be, purely from this result."

The dog's owner was a 6-year-old woman who was hospitalized on Feb. 25 and went back home on March 8 after recovering.

The case also became complicated after the owner refused to let officials complete an autopsy, which would have helped officials reach a cause of death.

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After the Pomeranian's case went viral, concerns for the safety of pets jumped online. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that animals in the U.S. have contracted or can spread the virus, so keeping them indoors is unnecessary at this point, notes USA Today. Still, it is not clear if pets can still carry the virus in their fur, just as the virus sits on hard surfaces for three days. The CDC recommends you limit your contact with pets if you are sick, just as you would with other humans.

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