The first known dog that tested positive for the novel coronavirus, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, has died in Hong Kong, according to a local media report.
According to the South China Morning Post, the dog passed away on Monday after it was returned home, following a government quarantine and a negative test. The dog, which belonged to a 60-year-old woman who recovered from the disease known as COVID-19, had previously tested "weak positive" for the virus, Fox News previously reported.
A spokesman for the city’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) told the South China Morning Post it learned of the dog's passing on March 16. "The owner said she was not willing to [allow] an autopsy to examine the cause of death," the spokesman added.
The South China Morning Post added that the miniature mammal was repeatedly tested for the virus via nasal, oral and blood samples before returning home. Blood tests were negative on March 12, but it's possible the test results did not mean the dog was not infected, even if no antibodies were found in the pet's system.
“It is known in some asymptomatic or mild cases of human infections with other types of coronavirus that antibodies may not always develop,” the AFCD added in its interview with the South China Morning Post.
The dog, whose infection was discovered in February, is believed to be the first known case of human-to-animal transmission of the virus.
Prior to that time, the AFCD said that it did not "have evidence that pet animals can be infected with COVID-19 virus or can be a source of infection to people."
As of Wednesday morning, there have been more than 201,000 reported cases of COVID-19, including at least 6,500 in the U.S.