BOSTON (CBS) – A Dartmouth College student said he and his family were as surprised as anyone when their pug Winston became the first known dog to test positive for coronavirus.
Ben McLean returned home to North Carolina March 10, and remained there after Dartmouth was among the colleges switching to close its campus and shift to remote learning as a result of the pandemic.
McLean’s father, a doctor working at UNC Medical Center’s COVID-19 emergency room, became sick in mid-March and later tested positive for coronavirus. McLean’s mother tested positive as well, and though the Dartmouth College student himself was sick with a presumed case of coronavirus, he was not tested.
The family decided to participate in a Duke University research study that asks recovered coronavirus patients to donate plasma, and tests them for antibodies.
“We knew we had COVID, so we were like ‘What can we do to help?’” said McLean. “We didn’t really think the pets were a big part of the study at all. They were just like, ‘Can we test your pets’ and we were like, ‘Yeah sure.’ And then it came back that Winston was positive.”
Winston was swabbed on April 1. His positive test result was revealed later in the month.
“He is, as far as we know, the first dog who tested positive for coronavirus, which is kind of crazy,” McLean said.
All members of the family are now recovered from their coronavirus cases. McLean said they are all – including Winston – practicing social distancing as a precaution.
“Winston is all better. He’s completely fine. We just went on a walk today and he ran around in the park,” said McLean. “We didn’t get near anybody, we’re still making sure he doesn’t come into contact, but that’s just precautionary. We’re sure he’s over it by now. We’re still social distancing just like anybody else.”
McLean said the study and news of Winston’s positive test weren’t shared to raise alarms. Instead, the family hopes researchers can gain valuable information.
“The study is to gain more knowledge on coronavirus in many ways – dogs, humans, antibodies, and try to work toward developing a vaccine and learning how long the virus can stay in the body. So, the focal point of the study is not necessarily geared toward pets, it’s just one of the components is they are studying household pets of people who tested positive for coronavirus,” McLean said.
“We just want to say that we don’t think this story should be a cause of concern for people who have dogs. We don’t think dogs can give it to humans, and if humans can give it to dogs, the chance is very low that the dog gets sick and it’s even super low if not impossible that the dog would have any severe reaction to coronavirus.”