A female Malayan tiger living at a zoo in New York City has been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to results from the National Veterinary Services Laboratories at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Authorities said the 4-year-old tiger is thought to be the first novel coronavirus infection made public in an animal in the U.S., or of a tiger anywhere.
The tiger, named Nadia, resides in the Bronx Zoo in New York City. The diagnosis was confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa.
The tiger is surmised to have contracted the coronavirus from a caretaker who showed no symptoms and was asymptotic.
According to the Wildlife Conservation Society that manages the city's zoos in a statement, along with Nadia's sister Azul, 2 Amur tigers and 3 African lions all exhibited dry coughs and are anticipated to fully recover.
It is believed to be the result of a "human-to-cat transmission."
Amid the pandemic, several people have wondered if their pets could contract the coronavirus or spreading it. Pets are not at risk, according to many health organizations.
Experts said there have been no reported cases of transmission from animals to humans.
According to the USDA, the tiger undertook testing for the virus after several of the zoo's tigers and lions revealed signs of the respiratory illness.
The test result surprised zoo officials, including director Jim Breheny, said.
A handful of animals have tested positive for the coronavirus in Hong Kong.
None of the other big cats of the zoo, including tigers in another area of the zoo, has revealed symptoms, but the zoo has taken measures to avoid exposure.
The zoo does not yet know how the coronavirus impacts big cats.
"It's the first time, to our knowledge, that a (wild) animal has gotten sick from COVID-19 from a person," according to Paul Calle, chief veterinarian for the Bronx Zoo.
He added that it only makes sense that the tiger contracted the coronavirus from the unknown zookeeper.
The zoo said, "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."
The Malayan tiger is the first non-domesticated animal in the world to have a confirmed coronavirus case.
At least two pets, a cat and a dog were diagnosed in Hong Kong, while a cat in Belgium is also believed to have tested positive for the virus.
Samples from Nadia were taken and assessed after the said tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo showed symptoms of the respiratory illness.
According to Calle, the test was undertaken in a veterinary school laboratory and differs from the test used for people.