March 13, 2020 / 2:12 AM / 17 days ago

Quarantined dog tests negative for coronavirus in Hong Kong

FILE PHOTO: A man wears a protective face mask sitting next to his dogs, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Hong Kong, China March 6, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A dog held in quarantine in Hong Kong on suspicion of having the coronavirus has tested negative, the government said late on Thursday, easing fears over the possibility of human-to-animal transmission.

The dog, which belongs to a patient who tested positive for COVID-19, will still need to be retested before being released.

The negative result does not mean the dog has not been infected with the virus, Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said.

“It is also not uncommon in the earlier stages of infections to have negative result as it often takes 14 days or more for measurable levels of antibodies to be detected,” it said.

The dog had repeatedly tested “weak positive” since late February with low levels of the virus found its nasal and oral cavity samples, prompting further tests to confirm if it had been infected or if the samples were due to environmental contamination.

The World Health Organization says there is no evidence so far that companion 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 around 131 confirmed cases of coronavirus with three fatalities so far.

Reporting by Farah Master; editing by Richard Pullin

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