Singapore MOH Assoc. Prof. Kenneth Mak said the virus is not known to last very long outside the body or on surfaces, and therefore "we don't assess at this point that pets are a serious vector of transmission." Credit: Handout.

Can Covid-19 spread from animals to humans? Speculation is rampant after a dog in Hong Kong tested positive for the coronavirus.

According to the Singapore Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Medical Services director, Assoc. Prof. Kenneth Mak, yes, it is “theoretically” possible, but he made clear that he believed pets are not a “serious vector” of transmission, Channel News Asia reported.

At a news conference in Singapore, Prof Mak said while scientific evidence did not point to the infection spreading either from pets to pets or from animals to human or vice versa, he acknowledged that this could happen, the report said.

Hong Kong authorities confirmed that the pet dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong was confirmed to be infected with the disease, in a likely case of human-to-animal transmission, the report said.

“From the point of view of understanding that infection occurs by droplets, then it’s not impossible for contaminated droplets from a sick individual to then fall on a pet, just as it would on any other surface,” he said.

“Therefore, if there are other individuals who might be touching those pets soon after the droplets are shared, there’s also a theoretical possibility of the virus spreading from individual to animal and animal to individual, just as it would if anyone actually touches a contaminated surface.” 

Nevertheless, Prof Mak said the virus is not known to last very long outside the body or on surfaces, and therefore “we don’t assess at this point that pets are a serious vector of transmission.”

“This is also the view of health authorities around the world,” he added. “At this point in time, there are no plans to isolate, do contact tracing for pets, or exercise any form of quarantine measures for those animals as well.”

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