Hong Kong to kill 2,000 hamsters after COVID-19 case in pet shop

White hamster on green grass looks into camera
Hamster, photo: Smitt van Canva

‘There are way too many unknowns to definitively blame hamsters’

Hong Kong announced on Tuesday it would kill 2,000 hamsters after COVID-19 cases were traced back to a pet shop.

Coronavirus cases in humans were linked to an employee of the pet shop. The animals at the shop were then tested; eleven hamsters tested positive, Hong Kong authorities said.

Local media reported that Hong Kong had only 18 new human coronavirus cases before deciding to take the measure of killing 2000 hamsters. Hong Kong, which is part of China, follows a strict zero-tolerance approach to COVID-19, while other countries are starting to see coronavirus as part of life.

Around 2,000 hamsters in 34 pet shops and storage facilities will be killed, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) director Leung Siu-fai told reporters.

“There are way too many unknowns to definitively blame hamsters. We don’t know if the hamsters were actually infected or only tested positive for the virus on their fur,” veterinary internist Lawren Durocher-Babek said in a Facebook post, adding that the news was heartbreaking.

“We don’t know if the hamsters passed the infection to the human – which has never been confirmed before in this pandemic – or if the human contaminated the hamsters – which we have seen before in other species of pets (cats and dogs),” Durocher-Babek, whos is based in Hong Kong, added.

A Dutch study proved that dogs and cats often get COVID-19 from their bosses, but there has been no evidence of pets giving the virus to humans.

Even though Hong Kong’s Health Secretary Sophia Chan also stressed at a news conference that there was no evidence domestic animals could pass the disease to humans, authorities still decided to kill 2,000 animals.

The Animal Reader is a small independent news platform with daily posts about issues affecting animals.

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