A female tiger by the name of Nadia at the Bronx Zoo in New York has reportedly become the first animal in the United States to test positive for coronavirus.
The zoo says that the test results were provided by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa.
The four-year-old Malayan tiger is believed to have contracted the coronavirus from a Bronx Zoo employee who had not being showing any symptoms of the virus.
“We tested the cat [Nadia] out of an abundance of caution and will ensure any knowledge we gain about Covid-19 will contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus,” the zoo stated.
Six other big cats may also have been infected with the virus, having shown symptoms including a dry cough.
Those include Nadias’ sister Azul, three African lions and two Amur tigers.
From Dr. Paul Calle, Bronx Zoo chief veterinarian; "The COVID-19 testing that was performed on our Malayan tiger Nadia was performed in a veterinary school laboratory and is not the same test as is used for people.
— Bronx Zoo (@BronxZoo) April 6, 2020
Nadia and friends expected to make full recovery
The Bronx Zoo is however optimistic that all seven cats will soon make a full recovery.
They are ‘otherwise doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert, and interactive with their keepers”, the zoo stated.
The zoo’s other big cats – snow leopards, a clouded leopard, cheetahs, an Amur leopard, a puma, a serval and four other tigers, are all reportedly in good health and not showing any signs of illness.
The tigers showing coronavirus symptoms will be housed separately.
Can people catch coronavirus from animals?
The coronavirus is believed to have originated from a live animal market in Wuhan, China.
There have up until now been only a very few cases of domestic animals testing positive.
Of course, very few animals would have been tested.
Several articles over the past few weeks have made reference to a page on the World Health Organization (WHO), which under the coronavirus ‘myth-busting’ section, claimed that ‘at present, there is no evidence that companion animals/ pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus’.
Interestingly though, that statement appears to have been taken down by WHO. A copy of the original info graphic can be viewed here.
There remains the possibility that domestic pets could already have been susceptible to different strains of the coronavirus, not the same one affecting humans.
But it seems that at the moment there just isn’t enough data to make a definitive statement on cross species contamination.
Image Credit: pelican