Tiger at the Bronx Zoo tests positive for the Coronavirus

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According to National Geographic, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo has been the first zoo-animal to test positive for the Coronavirus. Nadia, a four-year-old Malayan tiger, had developed a dry cough in late March so the zoo decided to sedate Nadia and run some tests, including for COVID-19. The zoo did a number of diagnostic and blood tests and then sent samples to the New York State Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University and the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Once the tests came back positive, the zoo noticed that two Siberian tigers and three African lions also had coughs and lack of appetites. The zoo decided the infection must have come from an employee who had the virus due to the zoo being closed to the public since March 16. This opens up the theory that cats may be able to catch the Coronavirus from people. ~

Before Nadia’s case, it was known that cats, both domestic and wild, could catch the feline coronavirus. According to the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, the feline coronavirus is a strand of coronavirus that affects felines specifically. But now Nadia has caught the COVID-19 strand (SARS-CoV-2). A team from Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China gave a small number of felines a high dose of SARS-CoV-2 and found that only one of three cats caught the virus and none of the cats showed any symptoms (Nature). The team concluded that cats are susceptible to catching the Coronavirus but are not to be worried about just yet. According to the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is currently no evidence that domestic or wild animals can spread the coronavirus to people. ~

Although this is the first reported case of a zoo animal catching the Coronavirus, the veterinarians at the Bronx Zoo believe it is not the only case in the country. However, they believe it is important to focus on testing people over animals. Paul Calle, chief veterinarian for the Bronx Zoo, claimed, “If we’d known the keeper had COVID-19 they wouldn’t have been at work. If [the virus] can go from people to big cats, the most important thing we can do is test the people” (National Geographic). ~

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