Dogs can be infected with the coronavirus and may be able to pass it on to humans, a leading virologist has claimed.
It comes as a Pomeranian dog from Hong Kong was confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday as the world's first pet to have tested "weakly positive" for the respiratory killer – despite having no symptoms.
As a precaution, the Hong Kong government announced it would quarantine all cats and dogs belonging to infected owners for 14 days.
Despite the news, Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and WHO both stated there was zero evidence pets such as cats or dogs can be infected with COViD19 coronavirus.
But now a UK virologist is challenging that view and claims dogs can carry coronavirus.
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He said nothing should be ruled out as we are in uncharted territory with the latest CoVID19 strain.
Dr Muhammad Munir, a virologist at Lancaster University, told Daily Star Online: ”Dogs carry receptors (molecules on the surface of the cell that allow the entry of the virus) similar to human for SARS-CoV2 virus, therefore, dogs can be infected with coronaviruses.
"It needs to be ruled out whether it was an active replicating virus or just the environmental contamination. Nevertheless, important is to understand where virus can cause disease in dogs and these show clinical signs.
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“If this turn out to be true, the next important piece of information relevant to disease spread would be to understand if dogs or other pets can transmit the infection to humans."
He went on to stress while it is unlikely pets have a significant role to play in the transmission of the virus, "we are dealing with a virus with no backlog history of information".
He added: "Thus, any apparently irrelevant information shall be considered carefully.”
The infected dog, whose nose and mouth were tested, is believed to belong to an infected 60-year-old woman, Yvonne Chow Hau Yee.
She developed symptoms of on February 12 and later tested positive. Her dog remains in quarantine at a special port facility and will be repeatedly tested until it gets the all clear.
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So far 90,937 have been infected with COVID-19, the vast majority of which are in mainland China, with 3,117 recorded fatalities.
In the wake of the world health crisis, some pet owners in China have started fitting their dogs with tiny face masks and there have been reported of dogs and cats being flung from high-rise buildings.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend infected owners restrict their contact with pets and other animals.
"Petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food,” it said.
The COVID-19 virus is believed to have originated at wet market housing live animals in Wuhan, China, following cross contamination with bats.
On Tuesday the UK health minister Matt Hancock says the government will not rule out no-go zones over coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile PM Boris Johnson says there could be a "very significant expansion" of the number of cases of coronavirus cases over the coming days.
Speaking to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Johnson said the possibility of further transmission of the virus was "clearly on the cards".
It comes as the number of cases in the UK rose to 40 on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the EU has raised the coronavirus risk level in member states to "moderate to high".
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