A tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the new coronavirus, in what is believed to be the first known infection in an animal in the US or a tiger anywhere, federal officials and the zoo said Sunday.
The Malayan tiger named Nadia, 4 – and six other tigers and lions that have also fallen ill — are believed to have been infected by a zoo employee who wasn’t yet showing symptoms, the zoo said.
The first animal started showing symptoms on March 27, and all are doing well and expected to recover, said the zoo, which has been closed to the public since March 16 amid the surging coronavirus outbreak in New York.
“I couldn’t believe it,” director Jim Breheny said. He hoped the finding could contribute to the global fight against the virus that causes Covid-19.
“Any kind of knowledge that we get on how it’s transmitted, how different species react to it, that knowledge somehow is going to provide a greater base resource for people,” he said.
The finding raises new questions about transmission of the virus in animals. The US Department of Agriculture, which confirmed Nadia’s test result at its veterinary lab, said there were no known cases of the virus in US pets or livestock.
“There doesn’t appear to be, at this time, any evidence that suggests that the animals can spread the virus to people or that they can be a source of the infection in the United States,” said Dr Jane Rooney, a vet and a USDA official.
The USDA said on Sunday it was not recommending routine coronavirus testing of animals, in zoos or elsewhere, or of zoo employees. Still, Dr Rooney said a small number of animals in the US have been tested through the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories, and all those tests came back negative except Nadia’s.