Authorities in Hong Kong are planning to kill off as many as 2,000 hamsters and other small mammals due to an outbreak of COVID linked to a pet shop employee.
According to the BBC, health officials tested hundreds of animals at the pet shop. Only 11 hamsters at the Little Boss pet shop tested positive, but Hong Kong’s “zero Covid” strategy requires culling any potentially infected animal where there is possibility of animal-to-human Covid transmission.
That means animals like rabbits and chinchillas will be culled, despite negative test results.
Hong Kong authorities maintain a pet-shop employee, a customer of the shop, and the customer’s spouse have tested positive for COVID-19 since the incident.
About 2,000 hamsters and other small mammals from 34 different pet shops and animal storage centers in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay area will be killed. As well, anyone who purchased a hamster from the market after December 22, must surrender the animal to authorities.
Hamster owners are meanwhile advised to keep their animals at home.
Hong Kong is now banning the import and sale of hamsters and other small mammals, while providing residents with a hamster hotline to call if any of the rodents are spotted in the area.
Hamster owners in particular “should keep them at home”, she said.
“Pet owners should keep a good hygiene practice, including washing hands after touching the animals, handling their food or other items, and avoid kissing the animals,” Hong Kong’s agriculture department director Leung Siu-fai told reporters at a news conference.
As the BBC reports, “The virus that causes Covid-19 – Sars-Cov-2 – can be caught by animals including dogs, cats, ferrets and rodents, all commonly kept as pets. But there is no clear evidence that pets can easily pass the infection to humans.”
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