March 18, 2020 / 3:16 AM / 17 days ago

Elderly dog dies in Hong Kong after release from precautionary coronavirus quarantine

Police officers wear protective gear as they prepare to evacuate residents from a public housing building following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, at Fu Heng Estate, in Hong Kong, China March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A 17-year-old dog in Hong Kong, which had been cleared of the coronavirus after initial suspicions of infection were proven unfounded, has died two days after it was released from quarantine, authorities said on Wednesday.

Vets in the Asian financial hub say the dog’s death could have been because of the stress and anxiety of being in quarantine and away from its family.

The dog, which belonged to a patient who had COVID-19, tested negative for the virus last week, the city’s Hong Kong’s Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said, easing fears over the possibility of human-to-animal transmission.

The dog returned home to its owner on Saturday. The AFCD gave no further details.

It had tested “weak positive” since late February with low levels of the virus found in its nasal and oral cavity samples, prompting further tests to confirm whether it had been infected or just contaminated.

The World Health Organisation says there is no evidence that pets can be infected with the coronavirus.

Animal health experts examining the Hong Kong case have said pet owners should not be overly concerned and should not abandon their pets.

Hong Kong has 167 confirmed cases of the virus with four fatalities so far.

Reporting by Farah Master. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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