A poor pooch which was the first found with coronavirus has died after being released from quarantine and sent home.
The South China Morning Post reports that the dog had tested "weak positive" for coronavirus in five nasal and oral tests last month but then tested negative on March 12 and 13.
The dog, a Pomeranian, was aged 17 and owned by someone who caught the killer virus in Hong Kong.
The pooch's owner Yvonne Chow Hau Yee had taken her dog to a vet in the Happy Valley area of Hong Kong after she test positive for the strain.
It had been in quarantine since February 26, but after it died the city’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said no antibodies specific to the coronavirus were found in its system but it is known that “in some asymptomatic or mild cases of human infections with other types of coronavirus that antibodies may not always develop."
This followed serology tests, which look for antibodies in the blood, and which came back negative.
An earlier statement from the AFCD said the negative serology test did not suggest the dog had not been infected and the virus found in the dog had a genetic make-up similar to the humans in which it had come into contact.
The statement said: “The [gene] sequence results indicate that the virus likely spread from the infected persons and subsequently infected the dog."
The AFCD said last night: "The department learned from the dog’s owner that it had passed away on March 16. The owner said she was not willing to [allow] an autopsy to examine the cause of death."
Reuters reports the dog had been cleared of the coronavirus after initial suspicions of infection were proven unfounded and it died two days after it was released from quarantine.
Vets 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 returned home to its owner on Saturday. 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.
Previously it had released a statement saying: "While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19.
"COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly."
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.
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