Nadia, a 4-year-old Malayan female tiger at the New York City’s Bronx Zoo, has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the world’s first case of a non-domesticated animal being infected with the virus.
COVID-19 is a disease caused by the coronavirus.
According to a statement issued on Sunday by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), an agency which coordinates the well-being of animals at the zoo, the big cat tested positive for the novel disease after developing a “dry cough.”
The statement also explained that Azul, the tiger’s sister, and five other big cats in the zoo — two Amur tigers, and three African lions — are also experiencing a dry cough but are all “expected to recover.”
“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,” the statement read.
“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.”
Paul Calle, chief veterinarian at the zoo, also told Reuters on Sunday: “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.”
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) national veterinary services laboratories also confirmed the result of the diagnosis conducted on the animal in a statement.
The organisation, citing public health officials, said the animal could have contracted the virus after being exposed to an asymptomatic zookeeper.
“This is the first instance of a tiger being infected with COVID-19. Samples from this tiger were taken and tested after several lions and tigers at the zoo showed symptoms of respiratory illness,” USDA said in the statement.
“Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was actively shedding virus. The zoo has been closed to the public since mid-March, and the first tiger began showing signs of sickness on March 27.
“All of these large cats are expected to recover. There is no evidence that other animals in other areas of the zoo are showing symptoms.”
The development comes weeks after a dog tested positive for coronavirus in Hong Kong.
UThe US remains one of the worst-hit countries by the pandemic globally. This has informed the introduction of several measures including the approval of emergency use of anti-malaria drugs to combat the killer virus in the country.