Angelo Borrelli has delivered a heartbreaking plea to pet owners not to give up on their animals and reassured the public the virus present in dogs cannot passed onto humans. In a daily briefing, Mr Borreli said: “The abandonment of pets, especially dogs, is absolutely regrettable. “The virus is also present in dogs, but nothing proves the contagion from animals to humans, so they should not be abandoned for this.”
He added: “There are reports of abandonment of domestic pets, in particular dogs, when there is no proof of the possibility of contagion between animals and humans.
“Don’t do it, there is no scientific evidence that proves they can transmit the virus”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already stated domestic pets such as cats and dogs cannot be infected with the current type of coronavirus which is killing thousands of people around the world.
In a statement, the WHO said: “At present, there is no evidence that companion animals such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus.
“However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets.
“This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.”
Dr Grace Roberts, a virologist at Queen’s University Belfast, explained animals are unlikely to transfer viruses to humans because they have a different cell structure.
Dr Roberts said: ”If the virus meets a cell that doesn’t have the structure it needs to get in, it won’t.
“Some animals have closer related structures, but if people are thinking about whether dogs or cats could transmit the virus, I think it is very highly unlikely.
“A lot of illnesses that dogs get, humans have never had, despite living with dogs for a very, very long time.
“The kind of illnesses they get just don’t spread to humans because the kind of relationship they express within their cells and what we express in ours are just too far apart.
“Viruses would have to make so many mutations to make that jump. It just becomes so unlikely that would happen.”
The Department for Health has confirmed 177 patients have now died after testing positive for COVID-19 in the UK.
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The figure represents a rise of 33 after 144 deaths were recorded on Thursday.
The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK now stands at 3,983.
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)
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