Coronavirus – You MUST wash your hands after stroking pets to avoid catching Covid-19 from them, experts warn

YOU must wash your hands after stroking your pets to avoid catching coronavirus from them, an expert has warned.

A French medical body has urged pet owners saying catching Covid-19 from domestic animals "cannot be ruled out", despite there being no concrete evidence there is a potential risk.

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The French Academy of Medicine advises the government on epidemics and since the outbreak of the global pandemic a dedicated Covid-19 monitoring group has been set up.

The SARS outbreak of 2002-2003 was caused by a coronavirus genetically close to Covid-19, and was able to infect several animal species such as cats and hamsters, the French medical body said yesterday.

Two dogs in Hong Kongs whose were was infected have also tested positive for Covid-19, it said.

One dog had a very low virus count and later tested negative, while the second one is still being monitored, the French body added.

Neither pooch has showed any signs of illness, but "these scientific observations suggest that Covid-19 can be transmitted to dogs by a contaminated owner", the medical body said.

The French Academy of Medicine did not make it clear if they were referring to a 17-year-old Pomeranian in Hong Kong that is believed to be the first dog to catch the killer bug after its owner was struck down herself last month.

The dog died on March 16, despite being allowed to return to its owner after being declared disease-free.

A spokesman for the city state’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said: “We 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.”

A department spokesperson confirmed the Pomeranian's "nasal and oral cavity samples were tested weak positive to COVID-19 virus," however did not explain why they tested the animal in the first place.

The World Organisation for Animal Health have said animal-to-human transmission is unlikely.

However, the French body have still advised pet owners to "reinforce" their hygiene measures, including regularly washing their hands after stroking their pet and "not allowing them to lick your face".

They have also recommended separating the infected owner from their pet "during the period that the sick person may excrete the virus".

Experts have said dog owners should not be worried about their pets catching the virus.

One doctor said it was likely the strain was picked up from the Pomeranian's fur rather than its bloodstream.

Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said it is "incredibly irresponsible" to create "mass hysteria" and slammed officials in Hong Kong.

He said: "There is no evidence that the human novel coronavirus can infect dogs and it would be incredible for a virus to make so many species jumps in such a short space of time.

"We have to differentiate between real infection and just detecting the presence of a virus – these are very different – and the fact that the test result was weakly positive would suggest that this is environmental contamination or simply the presence of coronavirus shed from the human contact that has ended up in the dog's samples.

"In truth this is incredibly irresponsible because the last thing we need to do is create mass hysteria about the possibility of dogs being infected, and therefore potentially transmitting this virus when there is absolutely no evidence for this whatsoever."

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