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.

MOH’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak said while scientific evidence did not point to the infection spreading either from animals to human or vice versa, he acknowledged that this could happen.

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This comes after 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, Associate Professor 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 quarantine measures for those animals as well.”

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