Chapel Hill dog that tested positive for COVID-19 probably never really had the virus, USDA reports

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Friday, May 29, 2020
Chapel Hill family's dog tests positive for COVID-19 in Duke University study
Chapel Hill family's dog tests positive for COVID-19 in Duke University study

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A North Carolina dog thought to be the first in the United States to contract COVID-19 never actually had the virus, according to USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL).

Further testing failed to verify COVID-19 in the McLean family's pet pug named Winston.

The McLean family was part of a study being conducted at Duke University to help develop improved diagnostic tests, track mutations in the virus, and create a vaccine.

Dr. Heather McLean, her husband, their son and Winston all tested positive for COVID-19.

After the positive test, NVSL retested the original sample from Winston and took new samples to test in an effort to confirm the presumptive positive test.

However, none of the new samples showed the virus. In addition, Winston did not have antibodies for COVID-19.

Based on its research, NVSL concluded that Winston never actually contracted COVID-19. Instead, the group suspects Winston possibly had come in contact with the virus, which then contaminated the original sample collected.

"This case serves as a good reminder to veterinarians of the importance of following a logical approach to diagnosis in cases of suspected SARS-CoV-2 in animals," the American Veterinary Medical Association said in a report. "A necessary part of the diagnostic workup is consultation with the state public health veterinarian or designated state animal health official."

Household pets contracting COVID-19 is very rare. Like many things with this new virus, researchers are still trying to get a better understanding of how it works.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a specific section of its website for updated information about COVID-19 and animals.

Editor's Note: Video in this story is from the previous report.