A four-year-old female Malayan tiger named Nadia is believed to be the first known case of an animal infected by a human with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The tiger which is at Bronx Zoo, New York tested positive for coronavirus with the result confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa.
Nadia, along with six other big cats, is thought to have been infected by an asymptomatic zookeeper.
The cats started showing symptoms, including a dry cough, late last month after exposure to the employee, who has not been identified.
Samples from Nadia were taken and tested according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). No other animals at the zoo are showing symptoms.
“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,” Paul Calle, the chief veterinarian at the zoo, told Reuters news agency on Sunday.
He said he intends to share the findings with other zoos and institutions researching the transmission of Covid-19.
“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 said in a statement.
The zoo further revealed:
“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.”
Nadia, her sister Azul, as well as two Amur tigers and three African lions who showed symptoms did have some decrease in appetite but are otherwise doing well.
All the tigers showing symptoms were housed in the zoo’s Tiger Mountain area.
The Bronx zoo has been closed to the public since March 16.