A tiger at New York’s Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the coronavirus, federal officials confirmed on Sunday, April 5.
The big cat named Nadia is believed to have been infected by a zoo employee who hadn’t yet shown symptoms of the respiratory illness. It’s believed to be the first animal in the U.S. to test positive for the novel virus.
“Nadia, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, has tested positive for COVID-19. She, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions had developed a dry cough and all are expected to recover,” according to a statement from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on Sunday, April 5.
The zoo has been closed to the public since March 16 as the coronavirus pandemic spread rapidly in New York City, with the first animal showing symptoms on March 27.
The New York Post reports that the zoo’s director, Jim Breheny, said he “couldn’t believe it,” when the test for coronavirus on the tiger came back as positive.
The WCS said that Nadia and the other affected animals experienced some decrease in appetite but are otherwise doing well under the care of veterinarians and “are bright, alert and interactive with their keepers.”
So far none of the zoo’s snow leopards, cheetahs, clouded leopard, Amur leopard, puma or serval are showing any symptoms of the virus.
The society hopes that the diagnosis will contribute to a better understanding of the coronavirus, adding in its statement that “it is not known how this disease will develop in big cats since different species can react differently to novel infections, but we will continue to monitor them closely and anticipate full recoveries.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), animals can become infected by the coronavirus but scientists don’t believe they can transmit the virus to humans.
But the CDC recommends that “because all animals can carry germs that can make people sick, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals.”
There have been a handful of reports of pet dogs and cats outside the U.S. becoming infected after close contact with people who had the virus, and the American Veterinary Medical Association and CDC have been recommending that people who are sick with the coronavirus should limit contact with animals, according to ABC News.
The worldwide spread of coronavirus, which originated in China at the end of 2019, has seen more than 1.2 million people test positive with more than 69,000 deaths. Over 9,600 people in the U.S. have died from the illness.
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