Tiger at New York’s Bronx Zoo tests positive for COVID-19

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the coronavirus.

A 4-year-old big cat named Nadia was confirmed to have COVID-19 in what may be the first known example of an animal contracting the virus in America, the Washington Examiner reported Sunday. New York City, where the zoo is located, is the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States.

Tiger tests positive for COVID-19

The tiger’s diagnosis was confirmed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the zoo, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which conducted the test at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory, the New York Post reported. The tiger probably contracted the virus from a zookeeper who had no symptoms, they said.

“We tested the cat out of an abundance of caution” and aim to “contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus,” said Dr. Paul Calle, the zoo’s chief veterinarian.

Nadia may be the first tiger in the world to definitely have the virus, the Washington Examiner noted. Six other animals developed symptoms such as a dry cough and are expected to be okay.

“Though they have experienced some decrease in appetite, the cats at the Bronx Zoo are otherwise doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert, and interactive with their keepers,” the Wildlife Conservation Society said, according to Fox News. “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.”

New York state is now the country’s coronavirus epicenter, with about half the nation’s deaths and a third of its cases. As the Big Apple braces for the worst of the pandemic, officials in the city are considering temporary burials of victims on public lands like Hart Island, located in the Bronx, according to CNBC. The Bronx Zoo closed on March 16, before the state shuttered most businesses considered “non-essential.”

Can pets contract coronavirus?

The virus itself is thought to have originated in wild animals, possibly bats, and then spread to humans. As of Monday, more than 10,000 Americans have died from the disease caused by the virus, according to The New York Times.

The coronavirus is thought to spread mostly between humans, but there are scarce examples of animals catching the virus from people. A Pomeranian in Hong Kong that later died was reportedly the first known animal to get the virus back in February, and two other dogs and two cats have tested positive in Hong Kong and Belgium.

So should people be worried about infecting their cats and dogs? Researchers believe that such transmission is possible, but that the reverse probably isn’t, according to Fox News.

“It’s important to assure pet owners and animal owners that at this time, there isn’t any evidence that [pets] can spread the virus,” Dr. Jane Rooney, a veterinarian and official with the USDA, said.

Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that COVID-19 patients take precautions when it comes to protecting their pets from the illness.

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