In what’s thought to be the first known case of animal coronavirus infection in the US, a tiger at New York’s Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Sunday.
A 4-year-old Malayan tiger named Nadia tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, after she, her sister, two Amur tigers, and three African lions developed dry coughs, the zoo said in a statement. The animals are all expected to recover.
The tiger was tested “out of an abundance of caution,” the zoo said, after a person who was asymptomatically infected with the virus cared for them.
“This is the first time we know of, or from any of the people we’ve been in contact with, that an animal has gotten sick with COVID,” Dr. Paul Calle, chief veterinarian at the Bronx Zoo, told the New York Daily News.
After the onset of Nadia’s respiratory symptoms, a number of other tests were run before it occurred to zoo officials to test her for COVID-19, the outlet reported.
“Because of New York City being an epicentre for COVID right now in the pandemic, we of course wanted to make sure we also did that testing,” Calle said.
Nadia was the only cat tested because the process requires anesthetising a big cat, Calle told The Associated Press. She was also temperature checked and received a normal result.
Measures have been put in place to protect zoo staff who care for the animals, as well as other cats at three other zoos operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which is in charge of the Bronx Zoo.
HuffPost has reached out to the WCS for additional information.
According to the World Health Organisation, while there has been one instance of a dog testing positive for coronavirus in Hong Kong, there is no evidence that animals can transmit the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is aware of a small number of cases of animals testing positive outside the US, but there is nothing to suggest they can pass it on to humans. Still, they suggest practicing general hygiene around animals, like hand-washing after handling and restricting contact with pets when sick.
The United States Department of Agriculture is not recommending routine coronavirus testing for animals, veterinarian and department official Dr. Jane Rooney told the AP. The small number of animals that have been tested in the U.S. have returned negative results, excluding Nadia’s, Rooney said.
The positive COVID-19 test for the tiger was confirmed by the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory, based in Ames, Iowa.
The Bronx Zoo and other WCS affiliate zoos and aquariums have been shuttered temporarily since March 16.