A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in people, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Service Laboratories.
The big cat is thought to be the first tiger infected with the virus, according to the USDA.
The tiger was tested for the virus after several of the zoo’s lions and tigers started showing signs of respiratory illness, according to the USDA. The agency expects all of the cats are expected to recover.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which manages the zoo, identified the tiger as Nadia, a 4-year-old Malayan tiger. The zoo said that Nadia, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions, had developed a dry cough. Since the animals must be put under general anesthesia to receive the test, the attending veterinarian decided not to test the other animals, according to the USDA.
A zoo employee is believed to have spread the virus to the big cats, according to the USDA. The WCS said it has now put in place measures to protect cats from the infection at all of its zoos. The zoo has been temporarily closed since March 16 to help slow the spread of the virus.
“We tested the cat 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 WCS said in a statement.
“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. 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.”
All of the tigers live at the zoo’s ‘Tiger Mountain’ exhibit, although a male Amur tiger living at the exhibit did not show any symptoms, according to the WCS.
The USDA advises that people with COVID-19 should try to keep away from animals, including their pets, while they’re sick, and to wash their hands if they must care for a pet or be around animals. However, there haven’t been any reports of pets contracting COVID-19 in the United States, according to the USDA.
The tiger appears to be the first animal confirmed to have COVID-19 in the United States. The virus is believed to have been first transmitted to humans from an animal, and some animals have been diagnosed with coronavirus abroad.