A tiger located at the Bronx Zoo became the first animal in the US to test positive for coronavirus, according to officials who delivered the news Sunday.
The 4-year-old Malayan tiger received the test “out of an abundance of caution” after she was in contact with a zoo employee who was infected with the virus, reported the Daily News.
“This is the first time we know of, or from any of the people we’ve been in contact with, that an animal has gotten sick with COVID,” Paul Calle, the Zoo’s chief veterinarian said.
Several tests were run before vets tested the tiger for coronavirus, this after the animal was showing respiratory difficulties among other issues.
“Because of New York City being an epicenter for COVID right now in the pandemic, we of course wanted to make sure we also did that testing,” Calle noted.
Symptoms have been shown by the tiger's sister and two other tigers along with three African lions, though the other animals have not yet been tested.
Calle added that vets at the Bronx Zoo will be sharing what information they have with the veterinary community.
“Because this is so new, we definitely will be sharing this information with our professional colleagues so that everyone can benefit from this,” he said. “Everyone caring for lions and cats in other zoos needs to know this information.”
“It surprised us all because in this global pandemic (and the SARS pandemic in 2002) animals didn’t get sick. They might have been occasional ones but animals have not played a role in either of these pandemics.”
The Associated Press reported that the USDA is not recommending animals or zoo workers be tested for coronavirus.
The USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories have tested other animals though Nadia is the only one to test positive so far.
“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,” Dr. Jane Rooney, an official at the USDA, said when speaking with the AP.
Some local government officials were not happy that the tiger was tested while there are still some people struggling to receive tests.
“A tiger in the Bronx gets a COVID-19 test, but there aren’t nearly enough tests available for people in the five boroughs,” state Senator Brad Hoylman said in a tweet.
“This is ridiculous," Hoylman tweeted. "Has Joe Exotic taken over our healthcare system?”
The US Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed the positive test result.
“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 Wildlife Conservation Society said in a statement.
“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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that the virus that COVID-19 comes from has been found in a low percentage of house pets located outside the US.
“We do not have evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19,” reads the CDC’s website.
Nadia shares the Tiger Mountain Exhibit with three other affected tigers at the zoo, as well as other big cats who have not shown any symptoms of the virus at this time.