A female Malayan tiger named Nadia is said to be the first animal to test positive for Coronavirus in the United States.
Nadia, who is a resident at the Bronx Zoo in New York, was tested on the 2nd of April after showing symptoms, including a dry cough and decreased appetite, late last month. The positive test results were confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa.
Six other big cats, including Nadia’s sister, Azul, two Amur tigers and three African lions, have also fallen ill.
Our cats were infected by a person caring for them who was asymptomatically infected with the virus or before that person developed symptoms”Zoo officials
How the disease will develop in big cat species is yet to be determined, but a statement by the zoo stressed that they will “continue to monitor them closely and anticipate full recoveries”.
None of the zoo’s other big cats, including snow leopards and cheetahs, are showing signs of illness and it is unclear if they will be tested.
Nadia’s test, said to be different from human testing, was carried out in a veterinary school laboratory, not one that handles human samples. “There is no competition for testing between these two very different situations,” says Dr Paul Calle, the zoo’s chief veterinarian.
The positive test results came as a surprise to zoo officials, but they are now hoping that any further findings may contribute to the global fight against the virus.
Any kind of knowledge that we get on how it’s transmitted, how different species react to it, that knowledge somehow is going to provide a greater base resource for people.”Director Jim Breheny said in a interview
Although there have been isolated instances of pets testing positive for the coronavirus elsewhere in the world, including a German Shepherd in Hong Kong and a domestic cat in Belguim, experts have stressed that the outbreaks around the world are driven by person-to-person transmission and there is no evidence to suggest that animals can spread the virus to people.
The zoo has also been clear in their statement, saying there is “no evidence that any person has been infected with Covid-19 in the US by animals, including by pet dogs or cats.”
This is the first time that any of us know of anywhere in the world that a person infected the animal and the animal got sick.”Chief veterinarian at the zoo, Paul Calle, told Reuters news agency.
The Bronx Zoo, and three other zoos also run by the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, have been closed to the public since the 16th of March. New measures will be put in place to ensure the safety of animals and their caretakers at all the facilities.
Although Nadia may be the first captive tiger to test positive for coronavirus, she’s unlikely to be the last, which raises concerns for wild tigers.