'Theoretical possibility' that COVID-19 can spread from animals to humans, but pets not a serious vector of transmission: MOH

'Theoretical possibility' that COVID-19 can spread from animals to humans, but pets not a serious vector of transmission: MOH

file photo pet dog
File photo of a pet dog.

SINGAPORE: There is a "theoretical possibility" that COVID-19 could spread from animals to humans, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Friday (Mar 6), although it assessed that pets are not a "serious vector" of transmission.

In a news conference, MOH's director of Medical Services Kenneth Mak was asked about Singapore health authorities' view on a case where a dog in Hong Kong tested positive for the coronavirus. Assoc 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.

Hong Kong authorities confirmed on Wednesday 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.

"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." 

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Nevertheless, Assoc 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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Source: CNA/jt

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