Tiger at New York's Bronx Zoo tests positive for coronavirus

The virus that causes COVID-19 is believed to have spread from animals to humans, and a handful of animals have tested positive in Hong Kong. But officials believe this is a unique case because Nadia became sick after exposure to an asymptomatic zoo employee, Paul Calle, chief veterinarian at the Bronx Zoo, told Reuters. Calle said they did not know which employee infected the tiger. “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,” Calle said, adding that they planned to share the findings with other zoos and institutions. “Hopefully we will all have a better understanding as a result.”

 

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City has tested positive for the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in the first known case of a human infecting an animal and making it sick, the zoo’s chief veterinarian said on Sunday.

 

Nadia, the 4-year-old Malayan tiger that tested positive, was screened for the COVID-19 disease after developing a dry cough along with three other tigers and three lions, the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the zoo, said in a statement. All of the cats are expected to recover, it said.

 

The virus that causes COVID-19 is believed to have spread from animals to humans, and a handful of animals have tested positive in Hong Kong.
But officials believe this is a unique case because Nadia became sick after exposure to an asymptomatic zoo employee, Paul Calle, chief veterinarian at the Bronx Zoo, told Reuters. Calle said they did not know which employee infected the tiger.

 

“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,” Calle said, adding that they planned to share the findings with other zoos and institutions. “Hopefully we will all have a better understanding as a result.”

 

While the other tigers and lions were also exhibiting symptoms, the zoo decided to test only Nadia because she was the sickest and had started to lose her appetite, and they did not want to subject all the cats to anesthesia, Calle said.

 

The tigers and lions weren’t terribly sick,” he said.

 

Nadia underwent X-rays, an ultrasound and blood tests to try to figure out what was ailing her. They decided to test for COVID-19 given the surge in cases in New York City, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States.

 

The first tiger at the zoo, which has been shut since mid-March, began showing signs of illness on March 27, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories, which performed the test.

 

Meanhile, the Indian government has said that tigers must be observed for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as respiratory signs of nasal discharge, coughing and laboured breathing through direct observation and camera trap images after one in New York's Bronx zoo tested positive.
 

In a letter, the government has said that the United States Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratories has confirmed the presence of COVID-19 in tiger housed in Bronx Zoo, New York, and therefore, all zoo personnel should remain in high alert.
 

As Coronaviruses are known to affect gastrointestinal system in felines, requisite correlation may be made for characterizing the virus type in consultation with the state veterinary department, the letter said.

 

"For COVID-19 diagnosis as well as differential diagnoses and characterization as highlighted above, samples may be sent to ICAR approved laboratories as per enclosure," the letter said.
 

The government has advised that frontline staff as well as veterinary officials should gear up to engage in monitoring tiger mortality in areas under the jurisdiction of the said authority to detect the disease and prevent any spread in tigers in the wild.

 

"Being a notifiable disease, any positive case needs to be reported immediately to the NTCA for onward transmission to Authorities concerned," the letter said.


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