Animal health experts said on Wednesday the quarantined dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong could be the first case of human-to-animal transmission, although they cautioned the matter remained under investigation.

Hong Kong: Animal health experts said on Wednesday the quarantined dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong could be the first case of human-to-animal transmission, although they cautioned the matter remained under investigation.

The dog has tested “weak positive” for the virus which indicates a low level of infection, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said.

“The department will continue to closely monitor the dog … and repeat the test later. It will only be returned to its owner when the test result is negative,” an AFCD statement said.

The World Health Organization website says there has so far been no evidence that companion pets can be infected with the coronavirus.

Animal health experts examining the Hong Kong case said pet owners should not be overly concerned and not abandon their pets.

The AFCD said it would conduct further tests to confirm whether the dog has been infected with coronavirus, and that there is no evidence pets can be a source of infection.

Hong Kong has 103 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with two deaths. Fears of a community outbreak have seen shopping malls and restaurants deserted, with many residents working from home and schools closed until at least mid-April.

The virus is spreading worldwide, with South Korea, Europe and Iran hit hard, while several countries have reported their first confirmed cases, taking the total to some 80 nations hit with the flu-like illness that can lead to pneumonia.

The number of cases in mainland China, where the outbreak originated in December, reached 80,270, while the death toll had risen by 38 to 2,981 by March 3.