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Researchers have dismissed theories that the coronavirus can be transmitted from dogs to humans. This, after a genetic analysis conducted at the University of Hong Kong showed dogs testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 may have caught the virus from their owners, but not the other way around.

According to Professor Malik Peiris, a clinical virologist at the university, and main author of the study published in the journal Nature, scientists who examined the genomic link of two dogs infected with SARS-CoV-2 and members of the infected households suspect that the infection was more likely passed from owner to dog. An analysis of viral genetic sequences from the dogs showed them to be identical to those in the infected people.

Peiris, whose current research encompasses the pathogenesis, innate immune responses, transmission, ecology and epidemiology of human and animal influenza viruses, furthermore stated that there was no evidence to suggest that dogs could pass the infection to other dogs, or people.

As accurate information about the coronavirus becomes known, malicious fabrications, fake news and hysteria that pets can spread the virus among communities are being put to bed. The World Health Organization (WHO) maintains that based on current evidence, human to human transmission (spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks) remains the main driver of the pandemic. While The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reiterated that there is absolutely no evidence pets can spread COVID-19 to people.

“We don’t want people to panic. We don’t want people to be afraid of pets,” said Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC official who works on human-animal health connections. “There’s no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this virus to people.”

“Yet another validation that man’s best friend is not a carrier of the coronavirus is welcome news and will hopefully stop owners from believing false rumours mostly circulated on social media and abandoning their pets in fear - a tragic and emerging trend across the globe,” said David Barritt, executive director of Network for Animals (NFA), a non-governmental, international animal welfare organization crusading for animals around the world.

“Our pets are family. We need to keep them safe and protect them. Wash your hands of the myths. Understanding exactly how the virus is spread is both key to saving our own lives, as well as ensuring that our beloved pets do not become victims of panic.”

Barritt went on to say that instead of focusing on unfounded and irrational fears, find comfort in your animals during this challenging time. “Our companion animals in our lives are a source of great support. Pets, especially dogs, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, provide valuable companionship during lockdown, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. Perhaps most importantly, though, your pet can add real joy and unconditional love to your life, which I think we all need right now.”


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